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LCSO moves funds around to preserve the DARE program; Tighter budget forces cuts

By Staff | Oct 16, 2008

Although its future was uncertain, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday that Sheriff Mike Scott and top administrators managed to reshuffle funds in order to preserve the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.

Damaging economic factors such as the foreclosure crisis and decreased state revenue forced the sheriff’s office to make difficult decisions on which programs needed to be cut.

DARE was originally on the chopping block, but the sheriff’s office managed to consolidate some programs and raise the funding needed.

“We believe it is very important to everyone that these anti-drug lessons continue to be taught to impressionable children in the community,” said Scott. “It allows students the chance to establish a positive relationship with law enforcement at a young age and hopefully lead them to make wise choices in the future.”

DARE has been a staple program shared between the sheriff’s office and the Lee County School District for the last 16 years until the county cut almost all of its funding for the 2008 to 2009 fiscal year.

“The proposed budget was $539,000 and the county had cut $500,000 out. That is what put it on the potential cutting block,” said Sgt. Larry King, spokesperson for the sheriff’s office. “Now with restructuring and reallocation the sheriff has been able to salvage it.”

The restructuring consisted of a series of buyouts and early retirements, explained King, as well as the consolidation of other programs.

“With the attrition and not replacing some positions such as high ranking captain and other positions, they were able to do it,” he said.

According to the sheriff’s office, the program reaches more than 3,000 fifth-graders in 25 schools across Lee County. The program lasts 10 weeks and teaches students about making responsible decisions regarding drugs, tobacco and alcohol.

The program originally started in Los Angeles in 1983 and subsequently spread across the United States and all over the world.

King said four DARE officers cycle through the various elementary schools, but the program will scale back one deputy.

The prevention program continues to be recognized by the school district. Just last week, the Lee County School Board recognized two 2008 Florida DARE Educators of the Year, Bob Scoppettuolo and Christy Moore.