GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After months of meetings and discussions, the Clay County Board of County Commissioners approved agreements with the Clay County School District to place school resource …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After months of meetings and discussions, the Clay County Board of County Commissioners approved agreements with the Clay County School District to place school resource officers in every school.
The first item up for discussion was the board’s duty to approve a resolution that would direct the Supervisor of Elections to place a 1 mill ad valorem tax on the August 23 ballot. The tax referendum was approved with a 3-2 vote by the school board now goes to the voters for a decision. The tax increase would result in an additional $10 million for the school district that would provide $5.6 million to be used to fully fund school resource officers in every school, and $4.4 million that would go into the general fund to be used on things like school hardening as well as keeping up with updates to curriculum. The money would not flow into local coffers until 2019.
There wasn’t much discussion from the board as this vote is primarily a duty of the commissioners to more or less forward the ballot item from the school board to the Supervisor of Elections. However, Chairman Gavin Rollins took issue with this requirement prior to calling role on the vote.
“What happens if we don’t vote for this?” said Rollins, who teaches ESE History at Oakleaf High School. “Why does it come to us if it’s ministerial, if we have no choice in voting on it, then why does it even come to us?”
County Attorney Courtney Grimm answered with quotes from state statutes that order the school board to submit things like this to the BCC, and another that says the BCC is the only board with the power to request such things from the Supervisor of Elections.
“The Board of County Commissioners is the only one within the county that can then request the Supervisor of Elections to open the books,” Grimm said. “The school board can’t do that without going to you.”
Rollins continued his criticism of the obligation to vote in favor of the resolution as he called for the vote and the other four members gave their verbal approval, with the chair waiting until all four yes votes came in to make a statement and vote no.
“The legislature needs to fix that because that’s crazy. It takes away the whole point of voting, because what is voting if you have to vote?” he said. “I’ll go on record and vote against it even though I’m technically not allowed to supposedly, just to see what happens, I don’t know if they’d come lock me up or what, but 4-1 on that, I guess.”
Commissioner Mike Cella took an opportunity to state his agreement with Rollins on the frivolous nature of the requirement, but that he felt like it’s just something they have to do as part of the job.
“I agree with you that it is ministerial in our duties to be able to do that. I don’t technically agree with the language, but we don’t get to decide that,” Cella said. “The voter will ultimately get to decide what they want to do with that when this shows up on the ballot, so we’re just moving that along and they’ll be able to make that decision.”
The next topic for discussion came in the form of two agreements between the BCC, the school district and the sheriff’s office regarding the funding of school resource officers first for the time between July 1, 2018 and September 30, 2018, and another agreement for the time period between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019.
The agreements outline who pays what going forward with the three-party cooperation for meeting the state requirement for school resource officers. In the first agreement that ends on Sept. 30 this year, however, the current agreement has the school board paying $245,000 for the additional officers. Talks with representatives from the district might result in a different agreement being made with the school board to allow the county to use school facilities in return for their payment of that $245,000 plus about $43,000 capital expenses, altogether totaling about $289,000.
Rollins and commissioner Diane Hutchings – who also chairs the board of the charter school St. Johns Classical Academy – took issue with the agreement, with Hutchings saying they already pay the school district money and should already be able to use the facilities.
“My point is, and I’m going back to how you all reacted when we wanted to use the Thrasher Horne and we give them money, so that’s why this is putting kind of a question in my mind,” she said, referring to a bill they considered too expensive from the Thrasher Horne Conference Center rental for the county’s recent veteran appreciation event.
Rollins agreed, citing a recent event he was involved in that was planned at Clay Hill Elementary School that had to be moved.
“At the last minute they shifted and said, ‘Sorry, you can’t use the elementary school,’ and it wasn’t a conflict of scheduling, so I’m not sure where the conflict was,” Rollins said. “I would say, generally, that it would be helpful if the relationship with the school district wasn’t just when they needed money, it was continued on in terms of other facilities and that type of thing.”
Following these comments, Cella came forward with some additional information about the use of facilities, which has been an arrangement he’s tried to organize since being elected to the board.
“Programs that are organized and supervised, those are things we can’t do as a community because we don’t have an indoor recreation facility,” he said. “So we turn to schools, which should be the community center for our different neighborhoods, and I’m sure we can work it out.”
According to Cella his hometown hosts events for kids at the various schools and helps build a sense of community, and with this agreement on the table he thought this would finally be the time to make things happen.
“My feeling was that we have something they are in need of at this point in time so this would be a good opportunity to tie those two together. I talked to the County Manager about maybe a three-year deal and the superintendent was amenable, at least from what I saw at the last meeting, that he would, under the first three years, take that cost on in terms of maintenance,” Cella said. “Kids in this community have been waiting long enough for a program that they can take advantage of. Move them off the couch and out from in front of computer screens and phones and let them run around a little bit.”
Once the board had heard these terms, they agreed to vote the agreements through unanimously with the expectation that the school board would allow the county to use their facilities for three years in exchange for the county’s payment of that $289,000.