Broward County Public Schools Under Fire for Withholding Reimbursements for School Resource Officers

Broward County Public Schools Under Fire for Withholding Reimbursements for School Resource Officers

Chief Bradley Mckeone greets students at Sawgrass Springs Middle School with School Resource Officer Janice Matsko. {Coral Springs Police}

By Bryan Boggiano

Broward County Public Schools is facing criticism and calls for reform after failing to reimburse municipalities for providing school resource officers for the current school year.

The City of Coral Springs is among those demanding repayment, with officials stating that the district owes them over $1 million for resource officer services.

The development followed a discussion the school board had at their March 28 workshop. n that meeting, Broward League of Cities President Bob Mayersohn asked the board what it would take for municipalities to get reimbursed for their school resource officer services to the schools. He also stated police chiefs and the school board had not yet reached a resolution or a contract to achieve those reimbursements.

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Despite no contracts, each school had at least one resource officer for the entire year.

According to Coral Springs officials, for services from August 2022 to  March 2023, the district owes the city $1,125,330 for resource officer services. Those officers serve in 19 public schools, which include over 20,000 students — officials state that is the largest school population in the county.

That total does not include benefits such as health insurance, pension, or equipment-related costs.

Like other municipalities, Coral Springs went without a school resource officer contract for the entire school year. Police Chief Brad McKeone was prepared to speak at Tuesday’s workshop. But city officials stated they were told the police reimbursement item was removed from the agenda, only to be added back at the last minute.

Hollywood Police Chief and Broward County Chiefs of Police Association President Christopher O’Brien stated in the past; the school board would negotiate agreements with the chiefs collectively rather than have individual contracts with individual cities.

This, O’Brien states, streamlines the entire negotiation process.

But, he noted the chiefs of police ended that practice the week before the meeting, citing a lack of urgency in contract negotiations. The police chiefs subsequently left the agreement negotiation responsibilities up to the cities.

“We feel…that we’re treated as vendors, not partners,” O’Brien said. “To me, a partner is a 50-50 relationship. This is not a 50-50 relationship.”

He said although it is not uncommon for a signed agreement to come until two or three months into the school year, at eight months in, there are no signs a deal would be in place soon.

O’Brien stated issues related to a bond referendum, the firing of former Superintendent Dr. Vicki Cartwright, and the appointment of Interim Superintendent Dr. Earlean Smiley all contributed to the process slowing down.

The referendum, which ultimately passed, dealt with additional tax revenue for the school district for safety, among other initiatives. According to city officials, the referendum, in the form of a one mil millage rate increase, resulted in $12 million generated from Coral Springs in tax revenue to the district.

“We would like to see that funding utilized for increased school safety in our community,” said Director of Communications and Marketing Lynne Martzall.

In his remarks, O’Brien stated the police chiefs were asking for 100 percent salary reimbursements, amounting to roughly $103,000 per resource officer. He additionally requested supervisor reimbursements and a three-year contract deal.

Currently, the municipalities get reimbursed $61,200 per school resource officer.

The school board expressed openness to the three-year contracts and to increase the reimbursement amount from anywhere between $72,500 and $80,000. They did not hold a final vote since their meeting was in a workshop setting.

Despite the consensus, Member Allen Zeman expressed concerns about the district’s future finances, including the impact of the school voucher program, but he stated safety and security are “not negotiable.”

Vice Chair Debra Hixon similarly stated if schools were not safe, it would not matter what students learn.

“Safety and security [are] of the utmost importance,” she said. “If our students and staff don’t come home, then nothing else matters. So, we have to put our money where our mouth is.”

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Author Profile

Bryan Boggiano

Bryan Boggiano
A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan is pursuing his masters in geosciences at Florida International University. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.

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