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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 14, 2007
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Schools to budget for SRO program

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com 340-2432

Decatur City Schools Superintendent Sam Houston said he is implementing two cost-cutting measures so the school system won't have to trim its nationally recognized Student Resource Officer program.

Houston said Tuesday night at the Decatur school board's meeting that City Council members told him and Finance Director Melanie Maples that the school system will have to pay for most of the program in the future, a cost of about $215,000.

The city's involvement now is supplying five officers, their equipment and cars, paying a portion of their benefits, and paying their salaries when they're working for the police Department when school is not in session.

Houston said the school system budgeted $130,000 from state grant money, but it will need another $95,000 because of the shift of costs to the schools. He said he considered reducing the program to three officers.

"I believe it's in the best interest of the people we serve that we come down on the side of safety," Houston said.

School board President Dr. Charles Elliott said he doesn't understand why the council doesn't think that school safety is also a community issue.

"From 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., they're not wanting to protect more than 8,800 of their citizens," Elliott said.

The two cost-cutting measures are:

? Not contracting an outside company this summer to mow the grass of the more than 20 buildings the school system owns. Two Maintenance Department workers will take over.

? Postponing the lease-purchase of 300 computers, some which were to go in a computer training lab at the Professional Training Center.

Houston said council members suggested that the school board use a $1.4 million increase in sales tax revenue during the past two years to fund the program. He said, however, that two state-mandated pay raises, plus rising insurance and retirement costs as well as fully funding the Mobile Math Initiative and hiring foreign language teachers
at the three middle schools, ate most of this increase.

Houston said Decatur is the only school system in the state that must pay for most of its SRO program. He said systems with an SRO program usually trimshare the cost with a local government partner.

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