Attorney: Canaveral Port Authority can't donate money to help Brevard schools

3 schools slated for closure

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MELBOURNE, Fla. - A lawyer hired by the Canaveral Port Authority says the port is not allowed to donate money to the Brevard School District to enable three schools targeted for closing to remain open for the next two years, dashing the hopes of parents and school staff lobbying to keep the schools operating.

Port Commissioner Bruce Deardoff two weeks ago proposed that the port transfer $5 million to the school district. He said that would enable the schools to stay open for the next two years.

But attorney David Tolces, a specialist in local government law that the Canaveral Port Authority hired to look into the proposal, issued a five-page opinion Thursday morning that concludes that the port does not have the legal authority in its own charter or in state law to make such a donation, Local 6 News partner Florida Today reported.

The Brevard School Board voted in January to close Clearlake Middle in Cocoa, Gardendale Elementary on Merritt Island and South Lake Elementary in Titusville as part of a plan to cut the district budget by $30 million a year. Closing the three schools would save $2.5 million a year.

Port Authority Chairman Tom Weinberg said "it is clear from Mr. Tolces' opinion that Canaveral Port Authority is prohibited from making a donation to Brevard County schools. The opinion confirms what to many of us was obvious -- that it is inappropriate and illegal for the port to make such a donation."

Weinberg said it is "unfortunate that, because of misinformation, numerous caring parents and teachers now have their hopes dashed and their hearts broken, despite touching our hearts with their impassioned pleas on behalf of Brevard's children, for whom we all care."

Weinberg said the legal opinion has been forwarded to the Brevard School Board.

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