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School officer funding cut causes friction between city and county

Posted: 7:25 PM, Jun 07, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-08 04:40:29Z

A disagreement has cropped up between the City of Bonita Springs and Lee County over who should foot the bill for additional school resource officers at the city's schools. Bonita city leaders say that the county had paid for the deputies prior to February's deadly shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

But that policy changed after Governor Rick Scott signed a law requiring officers at all schools.

"As it relates to the protection of our kids, there probably can't be anything more important," said Peter O'Flinn, deputy mayor of Bonita Springs.

"About a month ago, (Lee County commissioners) made a policy decision to no longer cover the schools in Bonita Springs, and we don't think that's appropriate," he added.

O'Flinn said that residents of Bonita Springs pay Lee County about five times what they pay the city in taxes.

But in a letter sent Wednesday from Lee County manager Roger Desjarlais to Bonita city leaders, he wrote: "...Lee County has a long history of providing a 50-50 share of funding for the School Resource Officer program."

"This arrangement was intended to make it through the hard times of the recession...it was never intended to be a permanent arrangement."

O'Flinn doesn't think the discussion on the funding is over.

"We're hoping that the more they think about this, as good people, they'll see the light," he said.

In his letter, Desjarlais also wrote that the county will continue paying 50 percent of the resource officer costs for schools in unincorporated parts of the Lee County.

He added that the cities of Fort Myers, Cape Coral and Sanibel have all agreed to help fund the extra officers. Unlike Bonita Springs, each of those cities has its own police department, which would help provide officers to schools.