Schools, sheriff face budget committee

Friday, September 24, 2010

Marshall County's Budget Committee still doesn't like the proposed school budget since it's dipping into reserves, but the panel responded positively to the sheriff's proposal for a reserve deputy program.

Both issues are likely to be discussed Monday at 6 p.m. in the Courthouse Annex where county commissioners are to convene in regular session.

"We voted 5-0 not to recommend the school budget to the commission, as presented," Commission chairman Tom Sumners said of the Budget Committee's decision on Tuesday. "They're still dipping into the reserve fund. It will be on the floor Monday.

"Beyond that (as far as what will come of it,) your guess is as good as mine," Sumners said.

While the school board wants to spend more than what it did last year, Sheriff Norman Dalton wants to shift spending on overtime and, according to Commissioner Mickey King, use it to pay workers compensation insurance premiums for unpaid reserve deputies.

King and Sumners endorsed the idea.

Meanwhile, County Schools Director Roy Dukes says the school system must spend more money and drawing from reserves won't increase taxes.

Other leaders contend a Maintenance of Effort requirement in the state's Basic Education Program means that if county spending increases this year, then next year the spending can't be any less. Therefore, spending from reserves results in an eventual requirement for more money appropriated to schools.

Dukes counters saying there are other requirements so more is needed.

"There is a tremendous ... responsibility to prepare students for success," he said. "One is the Diploma Project. Other counties are doing it. It's mandated by the state."

More is needed for teacher retirement, he said.

"I would ask every commissioner on the commission to help us move along for our students and teachers," Dukes said. "Tennessee won the Race to The Top. Other states are looking at Tennessee on how it's handled. Race to The Top is a change in the method of teaching students. Every student must have an opportunity to be successful and make one year of gain academically."

Meanwhile, there's a state deadline to submit county school budgets. Thereafter, there's a risk of losing some Basic Education Program money.

"I think the latest it can be is Oct. 15, but I hope we will have something in place by Oct. 1," Dukes said.

As for the sheriff's proposed reserve deputy program, Dalton said he wants to start with seven officers.

"I feel that it will" cut down on overtime, he said. "It's a volunteer program. They have to come in and do the initial training. They have to meet the same standards of the regular officer without going to the academy. They'll do their training at the Sheriff's Office.

They'll be bonded and will be under the county insurance.

The only difference is that they won't have been to the academy and they have to ride with a regular deputy. Not only will it cut down on overtime, it will increase the officer back up.

"There's a possibility" they could use it as a step toward becoming an employee, "but some of them are retired and want something to do, so I'm not looking at all of them wanting to become a deputy."

King said, " It sounds real good. We told him to go forward with it, but we are going to study it some more...

"They'll be riding with an experienced deputy," King said. "He's got three deputies on at night. If one of them were to be off, then he'd call in two reserve deputies and they'd ride with the two regular deputies on duty, that way when they're called to an incident, there would be two deputies there in one car and the other car could remain on patrol."

Sumners said, "It's something the people would be real comfortable with them being out there with law enforcement and maintaining crowd control and giving peace of mind."