Citrus County is still finalizing a plan to ensure every public school campus has a full-time law enforcement officer.

  • School board has agreed to help fund five new SROs
  • Sheriff Mike Prendergast says more are needed
  • Guardian Program opposed by board, sheriff

All middle and high schools in the county have school resource officers, but not all elementary schools.

The school board has agreed to help fund the addition of five new school resource officers, which would put one at every public campus in the county.

But Sheriff Mike Prendergast says they need at least 10 to get through the rest of the school year to ensure each school is covered full time as now required by law.

"We have to have five additional campuses covered," he said. "That doesn't allow for additional requirements when a school resource officer has to make an arrest, do a Baker Act, attend mandatory training or goes out with an injury, or goes to court."

After this school year, he said they likely will need to increase that number to 12.

The board offered to pay just more than $82,000 to cover half the cost of those five additional officers for the rest of this school year. The sheriff's office would pay the other half.

"There are associated upfront costs that no matter what we do, we must have the upfront cost covered," Prendergast said. "That's purchasing the vehicles, the uniforms, the equipment, the weapons, doing the mandatory training as mandated by Florida statute to deploy these assets out into the communities."

To help cover those costs, the sheriff says he has asked county commissioners for a budget amendment of $978,000 for the rest of his current fiscal year.

He hopes some of the $67 million the state has allotted for the Guardian Program -- which allows for school personnel to be armed -- can be used to help cover some of the cost of hiring the new officers.

"I'm not in favor of the Guardian Program, the school board is not in favor of the guardian program," he said. "And I've just prepared a letter to send to the governor to ask the governor to consider working with the legislature to see if we could take that money and reapportion it for those school districts that actually want to have school resource officers instead of school guardians on their campuses."

The Sheriff's Office stationed additional deputies at all county schools immediately following the shooting in Parkland.

School board members said no final number has been agreed upon yet for funding.

They do plan to continue the discussion at future meetings and stress all the county schools will continue to be covered with the additional deputies while the funding is straightened out.