Middle schools won’t see a change in the school resource officer program next year, even though the proposed Manatee County budget includes funding for eight additional officers.
The county budget proposal highlights providing $415,000 to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office for partial funding of eight additional resource officers at the middle school level. All Manatee County middle schools already have SRO programs in place, and that’s not likely to change.
In most cases, the Manatee County School District splits the cost evenly down the middle to provide funding for the officers. For the 2015-16 year, middle school SROs provided by the county were the only category of officers not split evenly.
$1.5 million The amount the Manatee County School District plans to spend in the upcoming year on SROs.
“In the past, the county used to split the cost of middle school SROs with us,” school district spokesman Mike Barber said. “For whatever reason, that arrangement went away for a while. This year it’s supposed to come back.”
Both entities are still working on their respective budgets and the school district budget has yet to be presented. The county’s first proposal was presented to the Board of County Commissioners on Thursday.
When questioned by a commissioner, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said he had not see the school district budget from Superintendent Diana Greene to date, but he assumed they would be budgeting for their half of what he called additional officers.
“I assume she will do her half if we do ours,” he said.
In Manatee, every high school and middle school has at least one full-time SRO. Manatee High School has two. SRO coverage at elementary schools is spotty.
Holmes Beach police and the school district split the cost for one officer at Anna Maria Elementary. Palmetto police and the school district split the cost of one officer for Palmetto Elementary School. And the school district and Bradenton police share the cost of one officer to cover the seven elementary schools in the city limits.
There are no dedicated SROs for the elementary schools in the sheriff’s office’s jurisdiction.
For the 2014-15 year, the school district attempted to place private armed security guards in each elementary school, but public outcry over private guards as opposed to police officers was ultimately part of the reason why the contract was canceled.
County reporter Claire Aronson contributed to this report.