PICKENS COUNTY—An extra $1.2 million in school spending is being considered after discussions of adding 16 school resource officers heated up Monday night.
Adding 16 new officers to elementary schools in the School District of Pickens County is a bold idea, presented by Vice Chairman Ben Trotter Monday evening, that some describe as “expensive.”
“This topic is in the news and it’s emotional,” Easley Police Captain Tim Tollison said. “When it all calms down, who is going to lose their job? Is it going to be a teacher or police officer?”
Trotter said school safety should be a joint effort.
“That is going to be a lot of money out of education when this ought to be a joint effort,” Trotter said. “I believe if we all pull together we can accomplish the goal of protecting the teachers and students.”
Tollison said the costs to local law enforcement could be dramatic.
“I’ve got concerns because, even though it is $720,000 for 16 officers, that’s $45,000 per officer,” Tollison said. “The cities will have to match that almost identically. That will have to include cars, guns and benefits. All of that equipment is going to cost almost the same amount.”
Trotter said it would be worth the money to add the extra man power.
“We’re talking about $75,000 to $80,000 per officer, but we couldn’t replace one child for that amount of money,” Trotter said. “Are we going to let money stand in the way? We’re going to have to give too. We’re already paying $40,000 to $45,000 for the officers at the high schools and middle schools.”
Superintendent Kelly Pew said the board has already met with legislative delegation on the issue.
“The school district has written a letter to legislative delegation asking for their support in providing school resource officers for our elementary schools,” Pew said. “We met with them in January and had that conversation, and they asked for us to find out how much that would cost.”
When it comes down to it, however, it is going to cost money, according to board member Alex Saitta.
“Ultimately it is going to be expensive,” Saitta said. “On our end, we could look at where we could combine some of these SRO’s. Right now you’ve got schools in Pickens that are right next to each other and that officer could float. We’ve got to look at places where we can economize. I’d hate to request 16 SROs, when in reality; we could probably get by on less.”
Trotter said consolidation of officers could be dangerous.
“I’m probably the most conservative person on this board, but I think we’re watching the dollar where we don’t need to,” Trotter said. “When it comes down to our children, what’s keeping one of these people from waiting till that officer leaves to come in. If you pull up and a car’s not that you will naturally assume he’s at another school.”
Pickens County Council Chairman Neil Smith said the school board will be looking at an ambitious endevour.
“When we’re looking at these costs I’m hearing some pretty large numbers,” Smith said. “When you’re trying to deal with such small percentage of attacks, even though they’re very horrendous, you’ve got to figure out how you can package that to get it to a point where the system can handle it.”