Council to address SRO pay

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lewisburg's City Council is scheduled on Tuesday to consider an agreement with Marshall County on how the two governments will fund the student resource officer at Lewisburg Middle School.

"The city is looking at receiving a signed agreement [from the county] on Friday, or a suggestion that we could consider Tuesday," City Manager Eddie Fuller said Wednesday morning while recalling the Council's discussion on the subject last month.

Councilman Ron McRady was interested in adjusting an agreement struck years ago since its terms weren't matching the reality of the situation. According to discussion in City Hall, Lewisburg had agreed to provide $10,000 for the SRO and the county would pay the balance, but that was when the officer was budgeted $40,000. The cost is now $71,000, Fuller said.

Last month, the Council decided to send the county a proposed update on the agreement with an indication that the city would share the cost evenly, or 50-50.

That was an opening for discussion between the city and the county as Fuller explained on Wednesday, "It could be 60-40, or whatever, but we left it at 50-50."

Last month, City Treasurer Connie Edde told the Council that in recent years, the city budgeted and paid $10,000 annually for the policeman who works in the middle school. The city billed the county for the rest, but the amount paid by the county school system was less than the rest of the cost. As a result, the city policeman serving as the LMS SRO is paid by the city which funds the remainder.

"We've received $37,000 from the county for an SRO," Fuller said Wednesday of the amount to fund that policing service for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. "Last year they paid $35,000. The SRO's total cost is $71,000. The $37,000 goes to fund the $71,000."

The city-county agreement on SRO funding started in 1998-1999, the city manager said.

Much of the $71,000 paid for the SRO is for insurance, retirement and other costs.

There are four SROs. Three are sheriff's deputies assigned to the high schools. One is a city police sergeant who is paid by the city Police Department.

Concerns were raised during the Council's discussion last month about a disparity between what the city SRO is paid, compared to the deputies' pay as SROs. McKnight recalled the lowest salary for an SRO as about $26,650 paid to a deputy, and the highest was for the LMS SRO at $57,000.

The actual pay, however, is $50,000 for the LMS SRO, Fuller said.

Doug Alexander is the LMS SRO. He served as police chief for several years before Chuck Forbis was hired as chief.

In January 1997, when Alexander was hired by the Police Department, he was paid about $24,000, Fuller said. In the following years, Alexander received annual pay raises and when he was named chief, his salary was $50,000.

"He was making $58,000 as chief," Fuller said.

In Alexander's last year as chief, there was a dispute over a teenager allegedly caught drinking beer in Jones Park. The issue was whether a ranking officer told or asked a patrolman to release the youth to his parents instead of booking him into the jail. A state investigation developed insufficient evidence to prosecute. Alexander was pursuing the matter and his attorney criticized civilian control over the police department. The dispute resulted in Alexander stepping down as chief. He returned to LMS as the SRO, but at $50,000 with sergeant stripes.

The specific issue for the Council and county officials is the funding mechanism for the LMS SRO. Public discussions have included comments on work schedules and assignments when school isn't in session, as well as how important it is to have an experienced SRO at LMS next fall. The schools director has said he hopes to move the alternative school to LMS.