09/10/13 — School board to fund resource officers

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School board to fund resource officers

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 10, 2013 1:46 PM

The Wayne County Board of Education voted Monday night to increase funding of school resource officers, announced it is moving forward on selecting an architect for proposed facilities projects and suggested the need for the district to hire a project manager-type position.

At its August meeting, the school board had decided to secure its own architect for the imminent construction and renovation projects. Superintendent Dr. Steven Taylor told the board this week potential candidates will begin interviewing with the facilities committee later this month.

"The facilities committee will pare that down to three (and) will recommend to the board, so we can move forward with the projects we have," Taylor said. "We're very pleased to be able to move forward and move forward quickly."

When it came time to approve this month's contracts, instead of voting on them in bulk, the board opted to consider each individually, with the most discussion centering around two of them -- funding a stronger law enforcement presence in the schools through the Sheriff's Office and the Goldsboro Police Department.

The board had voted last month to earmark $210,000 for the Sheriff's Office and $30,000 for the Police Department, both paid through state funds. On the latest agenda, the addendum called for an increase of $54,866 to the school resource officer contract and proposed another $7,838 be added for the Police Department.

Before voting, board member Thelma Smith asked if it could be amended in the future.

Linda Larimore, internal auditor for the district, said it was her understanding that the board could do that.

Board member Chris West said there was some hesitation because the budget is "not set in stone" and may change, then he made a motion to amend the amount from $54,866 to $100,000.

"The sheriff came to us two months ago as his funding had been cut," West said. "He had asked that we share some of that budget loss that he had with some local funds. While ($100,000) wouldn't be for the total amount, it would be for some of it."

Board member Rick Pridgen said he preferred to wait until the district's finance officer, Nan Barwick, was present to obtain more clarification and to make a more informed decision.

"I'm not going to vote for it as it is," he said. "Mr. West, I don't know where you're getting your figures from. I would rather have the finance director to tell me that."

"I did the math," West said, explaining that the calculation was based on the recommended salary of $37,000 times seven SROs.

Mrs. Larimore said that $264,866 was the amount requested when taking into account the $210,000 approved last month and the additional $54,866. The allowable amount from the state is $37,838 per school resource officer, she said.

"It doesn't change my motion," West said, adding that changes can still be made when Ms. Barwick returns.

Board member Arnold Flowers agreed, pointing out that the sheriff had actually requested $180,000 to make up the deficit that keeps resource officers in the school. If there was ever a school shooting or a "critical moment," having an armed officer on site would be a necessity.

"Are we going to debate $40,000 or $50,000 then? I think not," he said.

Pridgen said he felt it was important to support Goldsboro police with a similar financial increase, even though they had not made such a request.

"The Goldsboro Police Department is basically doing an in-kind job for us, so I don't think we should exclude them," he said.

When the vote was taken, Flowers, West, Mrs. Smith and Eddie Radford were in favor, Pridgen was a nay vote and Dr. Dwight Cannon abstained, with the explanation that he lacked sufficient information to cast his vote.

The motion passed for the additional $7,838 for GPD and $100,000 for the Sheriff's Office.

During board comments, Flowers said with so many needs and projects in the district, he would like to pitch in.

"We as board members, I would personally like to get more involved in the nuts and bolts stuff," he said, explaining he isn't seeking to displace anyone or take over, but simply to contribute.

Board Chairman John Grantham suggested the district might also consider having someone with more expertise on staff. While district employees are doing a good job, he said, they can't be expected to do it all.

"Somebody needs to be able to do what a project manager does. The project manager understands the work and the mechanics," he said. "I think it would save us money in the long run if we hired someone (with an engineering degree or had experience with fiscal management).