Staff recommends budgeting $25,000 in the FY 2007- 2008 budget to assist the School Board in providing a Lake County Sheriff’s Officer as an SRO at Beverly Shores Elementary.
On March 12, 2007, concerned parent Denise Burry approached the Leesburg City Commission appealing for help with the discipline problems at Beverly Shores Elementary. Ms. Burry cited multiple instances where student safety was compromised by unruly and out of control students. Ms. Burry requested that the City Commission place a School Resource Officer in the school. Several parents and teachers spoke in support of Ms. Burry’s assessment of the situation, as well as her request of the City. After much discussion from the Commission, the consensus direction to staff was to assist Ms. Burry in her appeal to the School Board, and to help her find a solution to the problem.
I contacted Superintendent Anna Cowin and briefed her on the concerns that were brought to our attention. She shared the concern for the situation, and indicated she needed time to assess the problem. She also indicated a desire for Ms. Burry to contact her directly. I relayed this to Ms. Burry, and she subsequently contacted the Superintendent.
In the meantime, Chief Chrisman and I visited the school during a lunch period to observe the conditions for ourselves. At the time of our visit, the campus was orderly and the students well behaved. Admittedly, this brief visit can not be considered representative of the conditions at all times. Chief Chrisman also instructed his officers to begin having a regular presence at the school. They walked the campus several times per day, sending the message that there was a law enforcement officer nearby.
The Superintendent has since replaced the principal of the school, hoping that different leadership will bring better discipline to the students. On May 21, 2007, the Lake County School Board approved expenditure of up to $25,000 toward a School Resource Officer for Beverly Shores Elementary. Ms. Burry has been adamant that the SRO needs to be a Leesburg police officer. Staff has respectfully disagreed.
The City’s previous partnership with the School Board for SRO’s dissolved over the School Board’s refusal to pay more than $25,000 toward the cost of each SRO. As personnel and other expenses (vehicle, gas, etc.) increased, the City was absorbing a greater and greater share of the expense. Ultimately, the City opted to allow the Sheriff’s Office to take over SRO responsibilities.
The proposal from the School Board is not any different this time around: $25,000. The School Board’s commitment to even this contribution is limited to this coming school year. They have indicated that the presence of an SRO in the elementary school should be part of a short-term solution to the long-term issue. The School Board does not intend at this time to fund the SRO at the school permanently.
Chief Chrisman has stated his preference that the officer NOT be a Leesburg officer, and I share his concerns. The reasons for this are as follows:
1. The City is facing potential General Fund budget cuts that could result in layoffs and reductions of service. The question isn’t “how can we expand our present services” at this time, but “how can handle the volume of work we have with less resources”. Part I crimes (serious offenses) in Leesburg are increasing, and we need more officers on the street preventing crime.
2. Having a uniformed officer in an elementary school could result in children being arrested for crimes simply because the officer is there to witness it. Situations that could be handled administratively may result in a child being handcuffed and placed in a patrol vehicle. The best interest of the child is not served when this happens, and it does not endear the community to law enforcement.
3. The start-up costs for an officer, including benefits, vehicle, fuel, equipment, etc. are more than $89,000. Once again the City will be asked to shoulder a disproportionate share of the expenses.
4. The City has a liability concern with regard to the actions taken against children at this young age.
5. The need for the SRO is in question. The presence of Mr. David Cunningham on the Beverly Shores campus during the last two weeks of school made a profound difference. Having the right leadership in the school is likely the answer that will produce results.
Even though staff does not support the placement of a Leesburg officer in the school, the City still has an opportunity to partner in the solution. If the City were to match the School Board’s contribution of $25,000, this would go a long way toward the Sheriff’s expenses for a deputy to serve as SRO. Since the Sheriff’s Office already provides SRO’s the County’s other schools, this seems like a logical solution. This is also a solution that brings three agencies together to solve a community problem.
1. Approve the recommendation of staff, authorizing staff to include $25,000 in the FY 2007-2008 budget to help fund a Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy as an SRO at Beverly Shores.
2. Other such action as the Commission may deem appropriate.
The FY 2007-2008 budget would need to include $25,000 for the Sheriff’s office to provide an SRO.
Prepared by: ______________________
Attachments: Yes____ No ______
Advertised: ____Not Required ______
Attorney Review : Yes___ No ____
Reviewed by: Dept. Head ________
Finance Dept. __________________
Deputy C.M. ___________________
City Manager ___________________
Account No. _________________
Project No. ___________________
WF No. ______________________