A request from the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department to the county for the 2019-2020 fiscal year is asking for almost $853,000 to train and equip 16 school resource officers for the Hamblen County school system.
The proposal came out Thursday night during the county commission budget hearing while talking of overtime pay for sheriff’s department employees.
But commissioners said that if there were additional officers needed in the school system, the Hamblen County Board of Education should pay for part of the costs.
“The school board runs this county into the ground over and over until we feel like a whipped pup,” said Commissioner Louis “Doe” Jarvis, chairman of the budget committee.
Though the request did not originate from his office, Dr. Jeff Perry, school superintendent, said Friday that they were always open to adding safety in the school, but also knows it comes at a cost.
“We’re alway supportive of additional officers in the schools,” he said. “And I also know there’s limited funds.”
Perry said the school system could use more officers, but there are other additional needs as well, such as more teachers and more mental health counselors.
“I’m concerned that any additional positions, I’d be charged for that and that would impact other positions,” he said.
The request, made to County Mayor Bill Brittain’s office, asked for training and equipping 16 officers, which would come to $53,298.66 per individual. That request does not include pay and benefits.
Brittain said the request was made to his office, but he did not formally recommend it to the County Commission.
“My opinion, the request needs to come from the school system,” he said. “Also, the state budget includes money for new SROs. We need to wait for details about how we can apply for it.”
The Hamblen County school board explored looking at additional school resource officers in the schools last year after the school shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida when 17 students and staff members at a local high school were killed.
The school system currently has four SROs, one for each high school and two that fluctuate between the four middle schools.
Perry told the school board at that time the cost of adding officers at each school would be around $1.3 million per year.
Perry said Friday that there are several measures in place for safety at the schools.
Currently, every school has cameras and have double access entries. He said he also feels the Morristown Police Department and Hamblen County Sheriff’s Department has excellent response times.
“We feel we have enough safety procedures in place to make our schools safe,” he said.