Clay County sheriff unveils new plan to keep his deputies in schools

Sheriff says his plan would be cheaper option, but school board disagrees

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels is saying not so fast to the county school board, which voted last week to set up its own police department.

On Monday, Daniels unveiled a new plan he has to keep Clay County sheriff's deputies in the schools and he said it would be a cheaper option for taxpayers. But Clay County District Schools said starting its own police force is cheaper than putting deputies in schools. 

Daniels said his plan would cost roughly $10.2 million over two years to keep deputies in schools, which he said is a hair cheaper than the school board police plan, which costs roughly $10.3 million. 

The sheriff said he wants to make his plan even cheaper and ask the Board of County Commissioners to pay for 30 percent of the deputies' salaries because school is not in session for about 30 percent of the year.

"In retrospect, looking back, saying, 'Wait a minute. They’re only getting 70 percent of services from the SROs (school resource officers). It would be unfair to tax them with, or strap them with, paying for 12 months of services,'" Daniels said. "So I said, 'You know what? Let me make an ask of the county commissioners.'"

Clay County School Board member Janice Kerekes questioned why the plan was just now released, days after the board approved the district's own police force

"I think if that were a viable option, he would’ve asked for it last year and the County Commission would be helping us," Kerekes said. 

Kerekes also said if the County Commission is willing to pay for 30 percent of the security costs, the district's own police department is still cheaper than what Daniels can offer.

"I’m happy to see that our numbers are still lower than what the sheriff is giving us," Kerekes said. 

READ: Clay County District Schools Police Department information and costs | Sheriff Darryl Daniels' letter to Clay County School Board Chairwoman Carol Studdard | Clay County Sheriff's Office School Resource Officer estimates

But critics are still sounding off. County Commissioner Gavin Rollins said the board just had a property tax hike approved by voters and he’s not certain he wants to give any more money to the school board after it got a tax hike that raises roughly $10 million a year, and the district only puts so much toward security.

"I wouldn’t say 'absolutely not' out of the gate because we have to review the specifics. But I think that it shouldn’t be something that comes before the County Commission," Rollins said. "The school district needs to do the right thing. They have the funding. They have been given the funding to fund school resource officers in every school by the voters."

When asked about why the school district doesn't seem to be spending all its property tax hike money on security, Kerekes said that it was for school safety and operating expenses, which include hardening schools, providing health insurance and saving for future security needs. 

The school board will meet Thursday evening at Fleming Island High School. At last check, Daniels' plan was not on the agenda, however, it will likely be brought up and discussion can be expected. 

Since the school board voted to approve the plan to set up its own police department, Kerekes said that it has already applied with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to form a department and started the hiring process by hiring a chief of police.

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