Keys school leaders support tax increase to pay for state-mandated campus security

A new state law requires every campus to have a security officer present.
A new state law requires every campus to have a security officer present.

Monroe County School Board members this week showed unanimous support for a tax increase to pay for a state-mandated law that every school have armed security on campus.

They will ask voters, via a referendum Aug. 28, to approve the additional tax.

But School Board members want taxpayers to know the increase is only because of the state’s mandate, which comes with only minimal funding.

“We’re not just asking people to increase, no matter how slightly, their taxes because we want to put guns on campuses,” said Mindy Conn, the School Board vice chairwoman. “We’re doing it because we’re mandated, and the community has said they want resource officers or school security officers on every campus, and right now we don’t have them on every campus.”

Board members don’t have a figure on what it will cost to add an officer to each of its 16 campuses, including six charter schools and three elementary schools, which have none at the moment.

The increase would cost the owner of a $300,000 house an extra $15 a year. On a $1 million house, it would be about $50 a year.

If approved, the tax would last for four years and raise about $1.5 million annually.

“Even after they approve it we can lower it; you can always take less,” said board member John Dick.

One board member was conflicted over adding the officers this fall.

“I hear from people that what we don’t need is more guns,” said board member Ron Martin at Tuesday’s meeting in Key West. “But that’s what we’re going to vote for tonight, more guns in school.”

Board member Dick, who first proposed the additional tax increase, said, “I wish we didn’t have to do that, but the SROs who are in the schools right now are carrying guns. It’s unfortunate, that’s the world we live in.”

The new legislation came in response to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which left 17 people dead.

The state’s new law also has a program to arm school staff, but the Keys School Board has rejected that idea.

Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen