County Budget Committee Asks School Board to Fund Two SROs

July 10, 2013
Dwayne Page

The budget committee wants the school board to partner with the county commission in funding four new school resource officers.

During Tuesday night's meeting, members of the budget committee voted 4 to 1 to include funding for two new SROs in the proposed county general budget, but only if the school board will vote to fund two in its budget.

The Board of Education will meet Thursday night in regular session to discuss the proposed new school budget.

Director of Schools Mark Willoughby, who had previously said the school system might find funding for one new SRO position through the Safe Schools Grant and other sources, now says the county shouldn't count on it, given cuts the budget committee has asked the school board to make in its proposed budget for 2013-14 "Asking us to cut $147,000, I don't believe there will be a chance for an SRO to be funded. Whatever the school board directs me to put in the budget, I'll put in the budget. I had said I felt pretty comfortable about one SRO. That wasn't in the budget but I said I felt we could do that. But when we were asked to do basically $150,000 worth of cuts, I don't think they (school board) would do an SRO officer and $150,000 in cuts," said Willoughby.

The county's proposed budget for 2013-14 currently includes funding for two new SRO positions. The school system's portion to fund two new SRO's would be $73,839 including salaries and benefits. The county would be responsible for the costs of equipping and training the new officers.

Budget committee member Jack Barton said he favored the county general funding all four new positions to ensure each school has an SRO, especially given the fact that the county will not have to meet all the requirements of the federal affordable health care act this year. Barton made a motion to fund all four new SROs but his motion died for the lack of a second. " I believe I would be looking at it at a very different level, if we were still being held to the standard of what the affordable health care act was asking us to do," said Barton. "But given that we've tried to ask them (school board) to make cuts and given that we're not going to be held to the penalties or the have to's of the affordable health care act, I want to put it out there. (to fund all four new SRO positions)," said Barton.

Committee member Larry Summers then made a motion that the county general fund two new SRO's (salaries and benefits) if the school board does the same with the county to pick up all the expense of training and equipping the new officers with patrol cars, guns, etc. The vote was 4-1. Committee members Wayne Cantrell, Marshall Ferrell, and Jerry Scott joined Summers in voting for the motion. Barton voted against it, since he wants the county general budget to fund all four new SROs.

County Mayor Mike Foster then polled the twelve county commissioners present at the budget committee meeting to see how they felt about funding two SROs if the school board funds two SROs. All but three said they favored it. However when polled about the county general funding all four SROs, a majority of the commissioners said no.

The budget committee approved all budgets Tuesday night with the exception of the school budget until the Board of Education meets Thursday night to take action on its proposed spending plan. The county budget committee will meet again Friday night, July 12 at 6:00 p.m. to act on the school budget.

County Mayor Foster said he wants the county to have a consolidated budget approved by the budget committee no later than July 15.

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