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BOLIVIA—It didn’t take much discussion for Brunswick County officials—county commissioners, school board members, the sheriff and their staffs—to agree to continue to provide deputies at elementary schools.
After Monday’s joint meeting, the Brunswick County Board of Education added a vote at their Jan. 8 regular meeting to allocate $245,838 from fund balance to offset costs for deputies in elementary schools for the rest of the 2012-2013 school year.
On Tuesday night, the board voted unanimously 4-0 to pay for the deputies.
Chairman Charlie Miller, sheriff’s chief deputy, recused himself from the vote.
Most of the conversation Monday speculated on the future of the school resource officers: How will the school system fund them beyond this year? What equipment needs are there for the new officers? Will there be any funds available from the state or federal government?
Brunswick County has a school resource officer (SRO) assigned to every middle and high school—two at West Brunswick High School.
In the wake of the Newtown, Conn. elementary school shootings Dec. 14 deputies were placed in the nine county elementary schools for additional security.
Sheriff John Ingram told the boards the sheriffs’ office was using off-duty deputies working overtime.
“We are coming to a time we will not be able to do what we are doing currently,” Ingram said.
Ingram proposed hiring new SROs for each school.
Superintendent Edward Pruden agreed, saying the school system could consider not filling a position as they come open in the future to pay for the SRO.
“After Newtown, what’s more important, the number of students in a class or the safety of our students?” Pruden asked.
A half-year salary for each officer would cost $16,187. The school board only funded the salaries with their Tuesday night vote.
Ingram said the SROs would become part of the school family, serving as mentors to students and available for various school functions. He said they could also train as D.A.R.E. officers.
Ingram also proposed purchasing nine fully equipped vehicles at $36,895 each or $332,461 total.
“We do not have to have everything implemented immediately. Having the officers there is first and foremost,” Ingram said. “The equipment is a one-time setup. With these vehicles we will get many more years (of use) compared to a patrol vehicle.”
Pruden said while the salaries could come from the fund balance, they would need help from the county for equipment costs.
Tuesday’s vote paid for six months of SROs. In the long term, Pruden offered the school system could continue to find the funds if the county would continue supporting the fund agreement.
Since it was approved in 1995, the county has agreed to provide the school system 36.5 percent of the local tax rate.
Estimated salary and benefits for adding nine additional school resource officers in 2013-13 are $491,679.
“From what I’m hearing, if the fund agreement stays close to what we have now, we can make that happen,” county commissioners chairman Phil Norris said.
School board member Bud Thorsen asked if the state would have any money available for officers or equipment.
“I met with (N.C. Rep.) Frank Iler. He did not promise anything but there is a possibility state money could be available,” Miller said. “It could be that we fund this for a year and they pick it up later.”
Norris asked if drug seizure money could be used for SRO funding.
Commissioner Pat Sykes proposed they start lobbying state and federal elected officials to repurpose lottery revenue.
Thorsen also asked about the timeframe to staff new SROs.
“We’ve already had officers ask to go to these (schools),” Miller said.“Probably within two to three weeks people will be in place.”
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.