Amid concerns about finding money for school security, Brevard Public Schools will pay $185,060 a year for an armored car to transport deposits from schools to banks.
School Board member Matt Susin tried unsuccessfully to postpone a vote on the measure at the board’s March 27 meeting. After 40 minutes of discussion, funding for the armored car contract was approved by 3-2 vote. Susin and board member Andy Ziegler voted against it.
The three-year contract, with a total cost of $555,180, was awarded to Mid Florida Armored & ATM Services, Inc.
“There are so many other things that we could spend money on besides an armored car,” Susin told the board.
Specifically, Susin contends that the $185,060 per year for the contract could help pay for state-mandated upgrades to school security, including more school resource officers and security cameras. He wanted the vote postponed until the school district knows exactly how much money those measures will cost.
The upgrades were part of a sweeping state school safety plan enacted in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County.
Brevard Schools Superintendent Desmond Blackburn, meanwhile, pointed out that armored car drivers are armed with visible guns. Blackburn implied that could add a “layer of security” during a school threat.
“I don’t know what the responsibilities would be in the event there was an active shooter on a campus at the same time one of our armed, armored car personnel are going in,” Blackburn said. “I don’t know when that will happen, but I certainly don’t want to be in a position to reduce layers of security.”
In an interview after the meeting, Susin called Blackburn’s assertion “ridiculous.”
Blackburn was recently appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. He is the only school superintendent on the commission.
Several members of the audience, including a number of students who had come to the meeting to share their opinions about armed teachers and school security, laughed at Blackburn’s comments.
Susin’s points were met several times with applause from the audience.
“Every time an armored car pulls up to the district or to your school, the teacher’s going to look and say, ‘The reason I don’t have what I need in my classroom is because of that armored car,’” Susin said at the meeting.
“I’m just scared we’re not going to have enough money for SROs.”
The armored car will travel between schools and banks, shuttling daily deposits from cafeterias, after-school childcare centers, clubs, athletic teams and other sources.
Currently, bookkeepers and other school employees individually take deposits to the bank, causing concerns about their safety, the potential for embezzlement, and the amount of time being spent on such trips.
Blackburn said those deposits total more than $30 million per year.
“I do want to end, totally end, the responsibility of staff members transporting cash,” Blackburn said.
School Board member Misty Belford questioned whether the entire $185,060 per year allocated for the armored car contract would be available for other uses if the contract was not approved. Blackburn replied that $70,000 of the money is coming from the district’s operating budget, and could be used for other expenses. He said the rest of the money comes from food services and after-school childcare and could not be used for anything else.
Blackburn said he couldn’t provide more details because “it requires me to discuss information regarding what we’ve been discussing in closed-door security meetings regarding how much of an increase SROs will cause.”