Funds found so LMS can get an SRO

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A way has been found to fund the school resource officer position at Lewisburg Middle School.

Members of the school board's budget committee were told that by Sheriff Norman Dalton at their meeting last week.

Judge Steve Bowden had found $36,850 in the funds to combat juvenile delinquency, Dalton said. And, Bowden signed an order designating the money to outfit an SRO.

"All the school board has to do is come up with the salary," Dalton told budget committee members.

Schools director Roy Dukes told them he had already talked to county budget director Freda Terry and learned that the annual salary and benefits for an officer with eight to 10 years' experience could be about $42,500.

"We have $27,750 in the budget now," Dukes said.

No board members have disagreed with the idea that LMS needs an SRO. Lewisburg Police Department Sgt. Doug Alexander filled the position for many years, but returned to patrol duties in summer 2010 amid controversy about his pay. The middle school has been without an SRO this school year.

When board members asked the Sheriff's Department to provide an SRO for LMS, as it does for the three high schools, they were told the cost of an SRO would have to include all his equipment -- car, weapons, uniform and so on. At a total of $69,350, with the first year's pay, this was way beyond what the school board had in the budget.

Barbara Kennedy asked what the time frame might be, and Dalton said he would first post the position at the Sheriff's Department to see if any of his present employees were interested, though he didn't know of any who would be. Then it would be advertised more widely, and applicants would take the civil service test. From there, Dalton planned to interview the top five.

Then, the sheriff said, if the successful applicant were already certified, they could start right away. Otherwise, they faced 10 weeks of academy training.

School board chairman Mike Keny reported that Dalton had already talked to LMS principal Randy Hubbell who was "clearly ecstatic" that the budget problems had been overcome and his school was getting an SRO at last.

Committee members planned to send their "heartfelt thanks" to everyone concerned, especially Judge Bowden.