Sheriff Rick Staly with Superintendent LaShakia Moore last month during a press conference about recurring threats to schools. (© FlaglerLive)

Sheriff Rick Staly with Superintendent LaShakia Moore last month during a press conference about recurring threats to schools. (© FlaglerLive)
Sheriff Rick Staly with Superintendent LaShakia Moore last month during a press conference about recurring threats to schools. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Sheriff is recommending to the County Commission that the 50-50 cost share for school resource deputies, or SRDs, between the School Board and the County Commission be changed. Staly is recommending that the School Board shoulder 60 percent of the cost, adding $300,000 to the district’s budget, while lowering the county’s responsibility an equal amount. 

The recommendation is part of Sheriff Rick taly’s 2024-25 budget proposal, which was submitted to the county on May 31. He is presenting the budget at a commission workshop this afternoon. 

The budget includes an 11.4 percent funding increase, from $50.8 million to $56.6 million, and the addition of 12 deputies overall, nine of them by Palm Coast. 

The County Commission, which reviews and approves all constitutional officers’ budgets, would have to approve $46.3 million of that. The rest, $10.4 million, is the sheriff’s proposed budget for policing in Palm Coast, which contracts with the sheriff for those services. The sheriff is requesting a 20 percent increase in his budget from Palm Coast. The increase covers both an 8 percent increase built into the budget, plus the addition of nine deputies–five to be paid for starting on Oct. 1, and an additional four to be paid for starting mid-way through the fiscal year, on April 1. 

The City Council has not yet had those discussions. It is expecting the request for the nine new deputies: that was part of the discussion at the last of two joint meetings between the sheriff, the City County and the County Commission on May 28, when the sheriff projected a need for nine deputies a year for each of the next three years from Palm Coast, and 10 from the county over three years. The county and the city agreed with the sheriff that the method of arriving at those numbers is appropriate. 

But neither government agreed to the actual number of deputies, deferring that question. The two governments were also at loggerheads over funding mechanisms, with some of the officials wanting a new sales tax, and some opposing it. 

The School Board was not part of the joint meeting. But the funding mechanism for its school resource deputies was at the center of its own controversy after the county administrator in February sent a letter to Superintendent LaShakia Moore saying the county was looking to get out of paying for deputies. That claim turned out to have been premature. The County Commission soon walked it back, saying it was only looking to explore different avenues, and would not agree to anything that would shortchange the district’s SRD staffing. 

The commission would be hesitant to revive the controversy: it was falsely portrayed on social media or by a feckless former commissioner as looking to “defund” school deputies, when it was seeking only to defund its share–if the district could find other ways to pay for it. Now, Staly, whose voice carries singular influence, is giving the county covering fire to take a modest step back in funding while shifting some of that responsibility to the School Board. The sheriff’s recommendation is based on a survey of school districts across the state, Staly tells the County Commission in a cover letter, which found that on average, districts shoulder 60 percent of the cost of school deputies. 

“To be more consistent with other districts, we have proposed that the School Board increase their share of the cost, which in tum would decrease the funding requested from the Board o

Sheriff Rick Staly with Superintendent LaShakia Moore last month during a press conference about recurring threats to schools. (© FlaglerLive)
Sheriff Rick Staly with Superintendent LaShakia Moore last month during a press conference about recurring threats to schools. (© FlaglerLive)

f County Commissioners,” the sheriff states. “If approved, the contract for the School Board would be increased an additional $300,389.”

The current school district budget for SRDs is at $1.19 million, about the same that the county is contributing for policing in schools. Staly’s proposal would increase that to $1.49 million. Unlike the County Commission, the district does not pay for its policing services out of local funds. It receives an annual state appropriation, called Safe Schools. 

In the coming year, the district is budgeted for $1.35 million in Safe School money (up from $882,000 just four years ago). That would leave the local district with a shortfall of $140,000–a shortfall it would not have had, had it not opened an alternative school with just a handful of students, on the campus of Flagler Palm Coast High School–where there are already two SRDs–to which it has assigned an additional SRD. 

Districts are required by law to have armed security on every public school campus, including charter schools. 

Some districts mirror Flagler County’s model, where the Sheriff’s Office alone assumes all security responsibilities. Some districts have a blend of private security and uniformed law enforcement. Some districts have armed school personnel under the state’s so-called “Guardian” program. But those findings are based on informal surveys. The Florida Department of Education has not released a precise breakdown of how the state’s 67 counties handle their campus security, making policy discussions based on strictly empirical evidence difficult. 

The Flagler school board has considered arming school personnel, but only as a supplement to existing sheriff’s deputies–not as a substitute. Staly has repeatedly said that he would not participate in a system that would add armed school personnel at the expense of existing sheriff’s deputies, while the public at large, as well as school employees, have been significantly opposed to arming personnel. (The district could barely get a fraction of school employees interested in participating, if asked, and district administrators had to present the numbers deceptively to make them look greater than they were, by including central office staffers among those surveyed. Central office staff would be irrelevant as a “force multiplier” since the principle behind arming employees is to have an actual, armed presence on campus, not five, 10, 20 or 30 minutes away. 

For a variety of reasons, the school board twice in the last two years set aside proposals to arm employees, but it did not kill the possibility. 

The sheriff’s proposal is sure to revive discussions about who should pay what share of school resource deputies. (Moore could not be reached today.) 

Among the sheriff’s budget’s highlights: a 3.4 percent across the board raise to account for inflation, the addition of four 911 dispatchers, and an extra $643,000 in operating expenses that account for such things as radio user fees, medical care for inmates at the county jail, website (cloud) upgrades, and so on. See the full budget below. 

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