LMS SRO salary back in limelight

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Proposed changes to an old contract on how Lewisburg and Marshall County fund the policeman patrolling Lewisburg Middle School are to be examined tonight when the county's Education Committee meets in the Courthouse Annex.

County Commissioner Larry McKnight, chairman of the Education Committee, also says he's concerned about a disparity in salaries paid to school resource officers at LMS, Marshall County High School, Forrest School and Cornersville High School.

In rounded numbers, SROs' annual pay ranges from about $26,650 to $57,000, McKnight said in a weekend interview. It followed his attendance at a Lewisburg City Council meeting that focused on the $57,000 paid to Doug Alexander, the former police chief here who retained the lion's share of his pay rate after he agreed to step down and return to his LMS beat.

Alexander's pay was a result of a gentleman's agreement discussed publicly at a City Council meeting last month when recently-elected Councilman Ron McRady sought clarifications on another agreement: How the city and the county fund the SRO at LMS. City Attorney Bill Haywood told the Council that the former chief's salary was unchanged to avoid a lawsuit. Apparently, Alexander might have sued over circumstances that arose with an inconclusive state investigation into something for which he wasn't responsible.

Ten years ago, the LMS SRO's salary was to be jointly funded between the city and the county with Lewisburg providing $10,000 and the county paying the rest for "a $40,000 budget," City Manager Eddie Fuller explained during the June 23 Council meeting.

McKnight was at that meeting and reported the county receives a grant for $27,500. That amount was seen by some at the Council's discussion as the county's share of the cost for the middle school's SRO, but it's not used for the LMS SRO. It subsidizes three sheriff's deputies who'd been serving as SROs at Forrest, MCHS and CHS.

One decision made during the City Council meeting on June 23 was to send a proposal to the county to have the LMS SRO's salary funded equally by the city and the county.

"We're going to talk about it Wednesday night," McKnight said of his committee meeting that starts at 6:30 p.m.

McKnight said he hopes his committee reaches a conclusion tonight on what direction the county should take because tomorrow night the school board is scheduled to meet and McKnight fully expects the subject of SRO pay will be a topic for the board's consideration.

"If they vote on it," McKnight said, "It will affect their budget. I don't think we should be paying more for one SRO when the others are paid so much less."

Meanwhile, whatever recommendation that might come tonight from the Commission's Education Committee will have to be considered by the Commission's recently reconstituted Employee Benefits Committee as well as the Commission's Budget Committee because of those panels' jurisdiction. Thereafter, the subject could be a topic for the 18-member County Commission.