SRO funding for city schools debated
In the wake of last year’s Newtown, Conn. school massacre which led to the deaths of 20 first-graders and six adults, security has been beefed up at all schools in Georgetown County.
School Resource Officers, which were placed in middle and high schools after the 1999 Columbine school shootings, have now been added to the elementary schools.
How to continue funding the officers at the schools within the Georgetown city limits has become a point of contention between Georgetown City Council and local school officials.
In January the school board released $150,000 in emergency funds to cover the costs for the extra security for the remainder of the current school year.
For the schools within the City of Georgetown — Maryville Elementary, Georgetown High and Georgetown Middle — the cost is split 50-50 between the city and school district.
Some City Council members have expressed their displeasure with this arrangement because the district covers all the costs for all the other schools in the county — including those in the town limits of Andrews.
“It’s time we as a council we are not paying for the school resource officers from the city budget,” City Councilmember Paige Sawyer said. “We as city residents pay county taxes and a majority of that goes to the school district.”
City Administrator Chris Carter said he discussed the funding with District Superintendent Dr. Randy Dozier.
“I wish I could say all went well,” Carter said. “He resisted the idea of them doing it. He feels the city needs to do it for the city schools.”
All SROs were originally paid with grants but those grants have expired so its now up to local districts and governments to cover the costs.
“When the grants expired the City agreed to pay for one of the two SROs at that time, and we paid for the other. The county has not at this point paid for any officers,” Dozier said.
Carter said under the split cost with the district, it would cost the city $60,000 for the two new officers that will be needed.
“The county pays 100 percent for all three schools in Andrews,” Mayor Jack Scoville said. “Our schools should be treated as all schools.”
Carter said if council advises him to do so, he can make a counter offer to the district.
“Whatever we do has to be drastic,” said Councilmember Rudolph Bradley. “If not we will continue doing what we are doing.”
While Scoville agreed he did want to make sure parents, teachers and students know the schools will remain protected.
“We are not going to let our students not be protected. But this is a question of fairness. They are providing a service to county citizens they are not providing to city citizens,” Scoville said. ‘
Dozier agreed with Scoville on that point.
“Georgetown County School District will not compromise on safety,” he said. However, he said instruction is the main focus of the district. The district is contributing a large amount of money toward the protection of our children. The cost the district has spent for vital security measures probably exceeds a million dollars,” Dozier said.
“It would be helpful to all if other government entities contributed to the growing, but entirely necessary, cost of increased security.”
The discussion on how to fund the SROs is expected to continue at an upcoming meeting.
By Scott Harper
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