County commission agrees to help fund officers in schools

Published 6:35 pm Wednesday, May 29, 2013

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

COLUMBIANA — The Shelby County Commission agreed to a funding plan that could fund 19 law enforcement officers in county schools during its May 28 meeting.

Funding for the plan, which is in partnership with the Shelby County Board of Education and county municipalities, would begin in the next fiscal year.

Under the plan’s proposal, the County Commission would contribute $270,750, while the Shelby County Board of Education would give $350,000.

Cities across the county would contribute a total of $270,750, and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office would fund $123,500. The Alabaster and Hoover school systems would contribute a total of $125,000, bringing the plan’s total funding to $1.14 million.

It costs about $60,000 annually to pay for one law enforcement officer working schools for nine months out of the year, according to the plan.

Alternatively, the $1.4 million in funding could pay for about 35 retired law enforcement officers for school security posts.

County Commissioner Lindsey Allison said the county’s portion of the funding would come from general fund accounts that typically cover maintenance and facilities.

“We had to go in our budget and cut some items,” Allison said. “It’s truly a sacrifice in this stage of the game for us to come up with this money, but the commission felt like it was prioritizing and this was an important enough issue that we needed to do that.”

Allison said meetings about the funding plan began in February. Those meetings included Allison, Shelby County Schools Superintendent Randy Fuller, Assistant Superintendent of Administration Dr. Lewis Brooks, County Finance Manager Butch Burbage and County Manager Alex Dudchock.

School system officials invited county officials to participate in those meetings, Allison said.

By the end of March, the group had come up with the basics of the funding plan and had the support of most county municipalities, Allison said.

“At one point in March when we met, I said to (Dudchock), ‘I can’t recall when we have had this level of cooperation ever,’” Allison said. “Remember, I’ve been on the commission for 20 years.”

According to the proposal, the Alabaster, Chelsea, Oak Mountain/Indian Springs and Pelham school zones would get three officers apiece, while the Hoover zone would get two officers. The Calera, Columbiana, Helena, Montevallo and Vincent zones would get one officer apiece.

The County Commission and Shelby County Board of Education are also applying for a Department of Justice grant that would fund three additional officers in schools. Allison said there is no determination yet on where those three officers would be if the grant comes through.

Allison said each city would be able to decide how it would spend the funds — whether that meant using active service officers or retired officers, or whether officers would be patrolling school grounds or acting as school resource officers in schools.

“Each city will make the decision as to how they want to approach it,” Allison said. “What the school board is saying is, ‘We’re going to give you this money, and we’re going to contract with you so you can make a judgment call on what you need for your schools.”

Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry has not officially said if his department plans to participate in funding the plan. A call to Curry on May 29 was not immediately returned.