GARY SHIFFRIN: Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee Meeting the Needs of Brevard Schools
By Gary Shiffrin, ICOC Chairperson // September 20, 2018
$8.9 million has been spent on fencing, single point access and video equipment to harden BPS schools
In November 2014, the voters of Brevard County passed a one-half cent surtax for renewal of school facilities, technology, and security. It was estimated that during the six years of the surtax it would generate $198 million.
In previous months prior to the ballot, the district conducted an assessment of all school and district facilities. Based on that assessment it was determined that the needs far outweighed the anticipated revenue that the surtax would generate.
We are happy to report that the revenues since inception have exceeded expectations. Due to the investment of our Brevard residents and the many visitors to our county over $147 million dollars have been raised through this surtax.
All schools in the district have benefited from these valuable resources. Approximately forty major facility renewal projects have taken place. This includes the project to renovate and reopen South Lake Elementary School. In addition, one of the most important areas of improvement has come in hardening our schools to meet updated security standards.
From the surtax, $8.9 million has been spent on fencing, single point access, and video recording showing those entering the building. Understandingly, much more could be done but at this point we have some of the highest security in any school district in the state.
It is important to know that many of our schools were built during the early years of the space race. In fact, over the past two years, many of our schools celebrated their 50th Anniversary. At the same time, public schools have always been woefully underfunded and this has caused massive challenges for maintaining infrastructure for older schools.
Brevard is no exception but those people in positions of leadership have been very successful in providing schools that are very conducive to a quality education. Unfortunately, each passing year presents even greater challenges to provide the appropriate upkeep for our aging buildings. Without the surtax the limited resources for all areas of running a school system would be strained at best.
Recently there has been much publicity related to the breakdown of air conditioning systems in the district. I can tell you as a school principal it was always Murphy Law that would take place at the beginning of each year. During the months leading up to the first day of school, the air would be very comfortable.
Then suddenly the system would break down and the complaints would follow. And deservedly so. But it is important to understand that the school system has 12,800,000 square feet of space, equivalent to 6,000 homes, in 941 permanent buildings and 386 portables. Many of our 4500 instructional spaces have individual air handlers resulting in thousands of pieces of mechanical equipment.
The sales tax is certainly helping improve reliability by allowing us to replace the oldest equipment, but aging equipment fails every day before it can be replaced.
The Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee is a very integral part of the success of this surtax. It is our role to “provide general oversight of the expenditures made through funds generated by the one-half cent surtax on sales…”
Over the past three years, our committee has taken our role very seriously as we understand the importance of insuring that expenditures are within the approved language by the voters of Brevard County. We are thankful to the Brevard voters for having the faith in those using the surtax for the betterment of our schools and enhanced security and technology which is essential for our future.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gary Shiffrin is the chairman of the Independent Citizen’s Oversight Committee which provides general oversight of the expenditures made through funds generated by the one-half cent surtax on sales.
He retired in 2013 after a long and outstanding career with the Brevard County Public Schools that spanned 42 years, and several schools.
He was the principal of Merritt Island High for 10 years, and before that Shiffrin spent 14 years, 10 of them as principal, at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Merritt Island. For six years, he was assistant principal at Cocoa Beach High School.
Shiffrin served at Stone Junior High School for a year just after he had left Melbourne High School, where he started his teaching duties as an educator and coach.
Also a coach and athletic director, Shiffrin served as the commissioner of the Cape Coast Conference for 23 years and was the Space Coast’s representative on the FHSAA assembly. He was inducted in the Florida High School Athletic Hall of Fame in April 2014 and the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame in May 2015.
In addition to being a regular columnist, Shiffrin covers education and prep sports for Space Coast Daily.
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