Sheriff, school board, commissioners meet on Clay County school safety

Sheriff Darryl Daniels says he needs millions to hire deputies


GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. – The Clay County Board of County Commissioners, the Clay County School Board and Sheriff Darryl Daniels held a school safety workshop Wednesday in Green Cove Springs.

The workshop took place from 4-7 p.m. in the Board of County Commissioners Meeting Room on the fourth floor of the Clay County Administration Building on Houston Street.

Last week, Sheriff Darryl Daniels and Superintendent Addison Davis told the Clay County Commission that they needed millions of dollars to hire enough deputies to put a resource officer in every school.

At the beginning of Wednesday's workshop, Daniels and Davis explained to Clay County school board members and county commissioners what was needed to fill the mandatory positions for the start of next school year. 

The sheriff then learned he will not be able to hire 30 people by Tuesday, as he had planned, because he doesn't know where the funding will come from. 

There was some discussion about whether Orange Park and Green Cove Springs police could provide school resource officers for their schools, but the consensus was that the same per officer cost would be there.

No decision will be made Wednesday about where the money will come from for the officers.

"Today was just about collaboration for us to get in front of each other and talk about our financial needs as a county, from a school district and also from a county's perspective" Davis told News4Jax after the workshop. "I think we have a clear vision in reference to what we have to do as a school district. I know we will have to see, look at what additional reserves and revenues we can generate in order to make this happen."

The school board will meet Monday to discuss funding options and try to come to a decision on how to proceed.

The county commission will add the topic to the agenda for Tuesday's meeting. The commission could propose a loan with a jurisdictional agreement, but the money would have to be paid back.

Daniels had previously told the Clay County Commission that he'll need an additional $4.5 million to hire 36 new deputies if he's going to assign one to every school in the district, as Florida law now requires.

Daniels said that any new hires would not be assigned to the schools but would instead replace veteran deputies who will be reassigned to work as school resource officers.

He said the exception would be if the new deputy had previous experience as a school resource officer. 

Daniels told the board the money to hire additional deputies was needed soon because of the new law requiring a school resource officer in every school by August, the start of the 2018-2019 school year. That gives his department less than four months to find, hire and train new deputies.

"I have to hire at least 30 individuals this month. And in June, 18 individuals to get the 48 deputies if we are going to go the route of putting a school resource officer in every school," Daniels previously told the board.

There are currently eight school resource officers -- one at each high school and one at Bannerman Learning Center. There are also two sergeants, one lieutenant and one detective in a juvenile crime unit at Orange Park High School.

The Clay County School Board has already decided it does not want "guardians" -- trained school employees -- to carry guns in its schools. The board wants deputies to protect students.

Last month, Superintendent of Schools Addison Davis said it would cost $15 million to put a full-time deputy at every school in addition to "school hardening" measures. The state bill allocated money for extra security to each county, but the budget provides only $2.5 million to Clay County for that purpose.

Davis told commissioners he supports the sheriff's budget request, saying the school district already has a $3 million deficit. 

For decades, Clay County school leadership has repeatedly asked for more funding from the county and taxpayers due to rapid growth. In 2003, Clay County voters rejected a half-cent sales tax increase that would have gone directly to the school district. 

Clay County Commission Chairman Gavin Rollins told News4Jax that the money for the additional deputies will be found, despite already pulling nearly $12 million from county reserves in the current budget year due to costs incurred after Hurricane Irma.