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Fewer school resource officers in Hernando County

BROOKSVILLE — The number of school resource officers in Hernando County is dwindling this fall, but the program is not facing the crisis that officials had feared.

Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics will go without an on-campus deputy this year, as will the STAR alternative school. All other middle or high schools will still have a deputy, officials said last week.

"We didn't have as many reportable incidents as some other schools," said Sue Stoops, the principal at Challenger. "The SRO at Powell Middle School will respond if we need help."

The School Board's latest contract with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office is scheduled for a possible vote Tuesday at its regular 7 p.m. meeting.

Last spring, Sheriff Richard Nugent told the district his department might not be able to afford its 60 percent share of the $979,586 budget. That share covered an officer at each of the four high schools, plus a floating officer to cover for illnesses. The district paid for an officer in each middle school and K-8, as well as the STAR center.

But Nugent has notified the district he will now be able to pay that share, except for the floating officer. The district will maintain its share of the budget, minus the officer at the STAR center, said superintendent Wayne Alexander.

"I did not add any (officers), but we added a school," Alexander said, referring to the new Explorer K-8, which will get an officer. "You take what you have and you spread it thinner."

Stoops said her school would be able to manage without an officer, but would miss the daily contributions of Deputy Bryan Faulkingham.

"Our SRO wasn't just someone who sat in his office and waited for something to happen," she said, describing his volunteer and mentoring efforts. "And of course you don't know what didn't happen because of his presence."

In other business Tuesday, the School Board will:

• Convene a 1 p.m. workshop to review pricing for a planned high school on U.S. 19 off Hexam Road, as well as the district's computer technology upgrades, including installation of new Dell computers.

• Hold a 6 p.m. public hearing and possible final vote on budget and millage rates for the coming school year. The proposed budget stands at $422.2-million, down 5.4 percent from last year. For the owner of a $200,000 home who takes a $25,000 homestead exemption, that translates into a school property tax of $1,361.33, down $50.05 compared with last year.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.

Fewer school resource officers in Hernando County 09/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 1:55pm]
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