St. Lucie Schools Wrestle with Loss of 13 Officers

ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Property tax reforms and budget cuts have forced schools in Port St. Lucie to cope with 13 fewer school resource deputies as the 2007-2008 school year approaches.

Arming the area schools with officers, deputies and squad cars costs the district $4.8 million each year. Previously, the school district provided half the funding and relied on Port St. Lucie and the Sheriff’s Office for the other half. But this year, the Sheriff’s Office can only afford to pay for a few supervisors.

Earlier this week, Sheriff Ken Mascara said he had to cut nine deputies to alleviate budget constraints in his department. The number of deputies protecting schools north of Midway Road will also drop from 22 to approximately 18.

Port St. Lucie Police Chief John Skinner plans to redeploy 17 officers and three Drug Abuse Resistance Education officers to help fill the gap left by the sheriff’s deputies, leaving part-time officers for the elementary and K-8 schools. He is also considering a suggestion from the mayor to use police volunteers in the elementary schools, freeing up professional officers to protect the middle and high schools. Meanwhile, Superintendent Michael Lannon said he had every local government agency scrounging for more manpower.

Port St. Lucie officials said they would not be able to provide as much money either, but they promised all schools at least partial coverage.

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