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Supervisors say they are not responsible for SROs

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Some members of the Henry County Board of Supervisors said Tuesday they are being seen as “bad guys” who are not providing funds for additional school resource officers (SROs).

At the same time, some said, the school division is spending additional and unspent money on technology instead of security.

“The way it’s perceived right now is that we, as the supervisors, do not want you to have funding” for the SRO program, Collinsville District Supervisor Joe Bryant said. However, that is incorrect, he said, and added that other county departments’ funds would have to be cut to fulfill the school division’s request.

“I don’t want people to look at us like we are the bad guys,” Bryant said, expressing the sentiment that seemed to be shared by Ridgeway District Supervisor H.G. Vaughn and Iriswood District Supervisor Milton Kendall.

Horsepasture District Supervisor Debra Buchanan agreed.

“I think it is a misconception to say that we did not fund the” SRO positions, she said. “We fund the bottom line” of the school board’s request and it is up to the school board to spend the funds as it sees fit.

At issue was $266,343 in extra funds the school division requested this year to fund, in part, three new resource officers for the elementary schools. The supervisors, faced with less local revenue after the most recent reassessment, approved level school funding of $16,577,895.

Tuesday, however, the school division asked the supervisors to appropriate $522,008 in additional/unexpended funds to the school board. The schools plan to use that money to replace a special education bus, buy vehicle repair supplies and buy iPads and MacBooks.

School Superintendent Jared Cotton said the purchases are on a prioritized list of items that are bought as funds become available.

Supervisors Chairman Jim Adams asked Cotton where the School Resource Officers (SROs) stand on that list.

“I realize we are talking apples and oranges” between technology/instruction and safety, Adams said, “but where do” the resource officers “measure in terms of the list” of priorities.

Cotton said school security is a priority, but without the funds needed to pay for the positions in upcoming years, the additonal positions likely would not be considered.

“Regardless of how this plays out, we are going to try to continue” conversations about the SROs with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, and safety will remain a priority, he said.

Adams also said the supervisors had been open about the expected loss of revenue from the reassessment. “It was conceivably a stretch to even” provide level funding, he said after the meeting Tuesday.

Adams asked if the school board considered using part of the additional $522,008 to buy some of the needed technology and another part to hire SROs and ensure student safety in schools.

Buchanan also asked whether there was not enough money to make the “two very important priorities” — security and technology — “work with the money you have?”


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