Is Flagler County transitioning away from SRD funding?

County Administrator Heidi Petito, Superintendent LaShakia Moore to meet as county looks to reduce its legacy expenditures

Buddy Taylor Middle School Resource Deputy Tyrique Harper. Photo by Brent Woronoff
Buddy Taylor Middle School Resource Deputy Tyrique Harper. Photo by Brent Woronoff
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Tyrique Harper has been a School Resource Deputy at Buddy Taylor Middle School since September.

Becoming an SRD “is the only reason I became a deputy in the first place,” said Harper who had previously been a patrol deputy during his three years with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.

“It took me a little bit. You’ve got to wait on line,” he said. “But it’s one of my passions. I feel like I have a positive impact with the kids.”

Jessica Matthews was so glad to see Harper at the Feb. 20 Flagler County School Board meeting, where Harper was working an overtime shift. Matthews has a child who is enrolled at Buddy Taylor.

During public comment at the School Board meeting, Matthews spoke passionately about the value of the SRDs in Flagler Schools. She and other citizens were concerned about a letter County Administrator Heidi Petito sent to Flagler Schools Superintendent LaShakia Moore requesting a meeting concerning the county’s $1.4 million annual commitment to the School District, most of which covers the county’s decade-long support of the SRD program.

Contents of the letter were reported on Feb. 19 by news site FlaglerLive.

The county and district each pay about 50 percent to fund the SRD program, which supplies at least one School Resource Deputy to every school in the district. The two high schools each have two SRDs on campus.

At a Feb. 19 County Commission meeting, Petito said that based on feedback and commissioners’ consensus, staff is examining legacy expenditures not directly aligned with the county’s strategic plan or mandated by state statute. Legacy expenditures are ongoing financial commitments that were made by previous boards or commissions.

Discussing her letter, Petito said she was “not suggesting we cut the $1.4 million contribution completely. It’s not that I was expecting it would go away this year, or even next.” 

But Matthews and others believed the county is cutting off its contributions, which would jeopardize the SRD program.

“Not having the deputies in our schools should not be an option,” she said. “…If the county is not willing to pay for it, what does the board plan on doing to make sure our kids are protected?”


School Board members assured the public that the board is committed to keeping the SRD program, but some of the board members seemed as confused as the public.

“We don’t know all the information. All we’ve done is receive the memo,” Colleen Conklin said. “We’re not cutting those dollars. We value our (SRDs). We’re going to work through this and I’m sure everything will be just fine.”

Christy Chong said, “I’m confused about this letter as much as everyone else. But safety for our children is the utmost importance. … If they really have a $200 million budget and the first thing they want to cut is safety for children, I find that so completely out of touch and I condemn that action, absolutely.”

Board Chair Will Furry said the letter was “definitely a blindsiding moment. … I can see why the the public is confused and concerned because it was written in a way where it almost seemed they had made up their minds. … But I do believe the county does care for our students as we do and I believe we will make progress through conversation.”

Moore and Petito have scheduled an initial meeting for Wednesday, Feb. 28.

“Once we have that meeting,” Moore said, “and have an understanding of what their ideas, plans, suggestions are, that information of course will become public for everyone to know what their transition plans are. As everyone has stated, our School Resource Deputies are so important to our schools, and it is a shared commitment as a community to how safe our schools are. So we will go to the table and have a collaborative conversation.”

Flagler County Commission Chair Andy Dance told the Observer that reviewing legacy expenditures are necessary with legislative changes and mandates including a proposed increase in the homestead exemption which would lower property tax revenues.

“Make no mistake, our intent is not getting rid of SRD's. ... I think it's been incorrectly stated or extrapolated that we’re immediately cutting funding, and that is not what's happening.”
— ANDY DANCE, Flagler County Commission chair

“Make no mistake,” Dance said. “Our intent is not getting rid of SRDs, it’s not compromising  school safety. We don’t want to get rid of SRDs. I think it's been incorrectly stated or extrapolated that we’re immediately cutting funding, and that is not what's happening.”

Dance said the commission is trying to set priorities which is properly funding the county’s basic obligations such as Fire Rescue and paramedics.

Flagler County Commission Chair Andy Dance. File photo by Brent Woronoff

“I think it benefits all of us to know each other's conditions and constraints and the two executives need to get together to talk about this,” he said.

Dance said he has put together a scorecard on Flagler Schools' SRD funding. The cost of supplying SRDs to all of the schools is about $2 million a year, he said. The district is spending about $1.1 million for SRDs with about $800,000 of that total coming from the state’s Safe Schools allocation. The county is spending about $1 million on the SRD program from its general revenue tax funds, which is what it has been doing for over a decade, Dance said.

The city of Palm Coast is also contributing $143,000 a year to cover one SRD (salary, insurance, expenses, etc.), and Imagine School at Town Center is paying the same for its SRD, Dance said.

“The administrator is basically stating in the letter,” Dance said, “is there any opportunity for us to unwind from this (obligation)? Does (the district) have more opportunities to get more funding?”


Unlike the county, the school district does not set its own tax rate. It is set by the state. But the district has other avenues to collect revenue, Dance said.

“Have they pursued those in order to properly fund the resource officers? So there’s a conversation,” he said. “I know the Sheriff (Rick Staly) has been vocal about the discrepancy in how Safe Schools funding is allocated and his point is that Flagler County doesn't receive their fair share of Safe Schools funds because we are ranked as a safe county. Our crime rate is low and we get penalized in this archaic allocation.”

Dance, a former School Board member, said he doesn’t believe the district has made addressing the discrepancy one of its legislative priorities.

“I think that’s one of the items that needs to be pursued,” he said.

During the Feb. 19 commission meeting, most of the commissioners said they agreed with the contents of the letter, but Leann Pennington said Petito’s letter caught her off guard.

“We had conversations about dialing out of the legacy expenditures, but we never really said what those were except maybe a quick comment about some School Board items,” she said.

But Moore noted in a conversation with the Observer that Staly had supported the community model of sharing the SRDs’ price tag after the commission discussed the funding during workshops last year.

“We do agree with this sentiment of the sheriff that the safety of our schools is a shared community effort and not something that is just solely on the school district,” Moore said.

Dance agrees that the SRD program is a community concern.

“It takes a village,” he said. “And all of us within the village of Flagler County should be a part of this conversation as well to make sure that we adequately fund SRDs in Flagler Schools.”


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