Hopes to put a sheriff's deputy in every elementary school in Lee county most likely are fading away. Sheriff Mike Scott had wanted the resource officers in each school for next year, but Commissioners are balking at the cost.
"We just cannot commit the kind of money they are needing in such tight budget times," says commissioner John Manning.
The commissioners were asked to apply for federal money to help defray the cost of some school resource officers, or SRO's. But the local match for the federal dollars would mean the commission would have to budget 6.5 million dollars over the next 4 years for the SRO's. They refused to even vote on the motion to apply for the federal cash.
"We are 30 million dollars in the hole on our own budget and cannot take on those kinds of extra committments," says commsr. Frank Mann.
Sheriff Scott wanted the SRO's in all 45 elementary buildings. He says he is 'okay' with the decision by the county board. But he also has a warning: "Let's just hope and pray to God that history proves us wrong. But history has shown that these gathering places, these schools, can be very, very vulnerable. God forbid that a tragedy happen here, but if it does, there will be a lot of people doing a lot of head-scratching."
Scott says he is "dis-engaging" from the effort to expand SRO's in Lee. "The fact is, it is way too late now to find other money and hire people and get them on the job by August 8 (the start of the next school year in Lee). It just can't be done," Scott tells WINK News.
The sheriff also says he is pulling 10 deputies out of elementaries, as of the end of school this week. He had stationed those 10 in some buildings, after the massacre at Sandy Hook school in Connecticut last December. "I will put those 10 deputies back on their duties, before the school assignments. We will leave the elementaries, un-attended," he adds.