EAST COUNTY — As Manatee County School District officials move forward with a budget that puts more than $13 million in reserves, they also are making a commitment to improve the security of classrooms.
As the district hashed out details of the 2014-2015 $372 million budget July 31, it also made plans to hire about 35 security officers for elementary schools within the next few weeks.
Deputy Superintendent of Operations Don Hall estimates the change will cost about $1.68 million and expects funding will come from the fund balance.
“The safety of our students is our top priority. We are unanimous on that,” said Julie Aranibar, school board chairwoman. “The primary mission of any school district is to provide a safe environment for the education of its students.”
District officials are still determining the hours and wages for officers on campus. Aranibar hopes to have full-time, armed security personnel on campuses by the start of the school year, Aug. 18.
The district will contract with a private security firm to recruit the individuals, who district investigator Troy Pumphrey assured are mostly retired law enforcement officers and veterans. The hired security officials will undergo extensive firearm and child-abuse training, among other continuous education, Deputy Superintendent of Instruction Diana Green said.
Although the personnel are not active police officers, board member Barbara Harvey said: “an old dress is better than no dress at all.”
Pumphrey met with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to discuss a partnership, but the more than $36 per hour and three- to four-hour minimum for services exceeded the amount the district could comfortably pay for the service, Aranibar said. The district would also need to fund vehicles for the officers, which it can’t afford.
Previously, elementary schools did not offer on-site security.
The district also agreed to add two additional resource officers as a line item on the budget, so all middle and high schools within the county have school resource officers.
Officials emphasized that the budget is still a working document and is not finalized until September, Hall said.
The news was welcome to School Board member David Miner, who has a law enforcement background and preferred a partnership with the Sheriff’s Office over a private firm for security.
Other budget highlights
• The district received about $172.43 million in state funding — an increase of $3.5 million from the 2013-2014 school year;
• The proposed millage rate is 7.38 mills;
• At $153,598, funding for classroom technology has more than doubled since the previous school year. The dollars will provide tablets, laptops and other technology to students;
• The budget allotted about $15.88 million for supplies and $11.61 million for energy usage, such as running the air conditioning in schools.
Manatee Superintendent Rick Mills continues to promote the school district’s ability to overcome the $8.6 million deficit and the $5.9 million in restoration costs for fiscal mismanagement.
“This (budget) represents a $20.8 million turnaround,” Mills said. “This has been the result of an extraordinary performance by this School Board, our school district staff and this community. We have brought this school district back to a state of fiscal stability and it is an extraordinary success story.”
Click here to view general fund budget highlights.
To view the 2014-2015 school year budget, visit manateeschools.net.
Contact Amanda Sebastiano at [email protected].