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Posted April 3, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Sheriff offers to share cost of school officers with county

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK - Cost-sharing options offered by the Sheriff's Office to Shenandoah County would put resource officers in all the public schools.

How the two sides divide the expenses remains uncertain, but at a work session Tuesday the Board of Supervisors appeared to lean toward an option that spreads the cost over several years. The option would, if put into effect, mean the Sheriff's Office assumes the lion's share of the cost for the first fiscal year. The cost burden would shift to the county gradually over five budget years.

Sheriff Timothy Carter had made the offer to fund four more resource officers - enough to put a law enforcement presence at all 10 county schools. When he presented the offer to the board in March, supervisors sought a more detailed proposal.

Carter outlined his four options in a memo dated Monday and sent to Acting County Administrator Mary Beth Price and board Chairman Conrad Helsley.

Supervisors appeared most supportive of the graduated option, according to Carter.

"They didn't make any commitments, but it sounded like that they were at that point," Carter said by phone Wednesday. "That particular alternative ... I was trying to give the county time to make some of their facility changes to the schools ... and then gradually take over this funding responsibility."

Under the option, the Sheriff's Office would cover 80 percent of the cost - $162,506 from asset forfeiture money - to fund the positions in fiscal 2014, leaving the remaining 20 percent - $40,627 for the county. The burden would shift by 20 percent. In fiscal 2016, the county and Sheriff's Office would share the cost equally. The burden would continue to shift with the county assuming more of the cost in fiscal 2015 and 2016.

The sheriff has suggested that the county and his office share equally the cost of any increases in salaries and benefits. Carter also proposes that his office cover the cost to buy equipment related to hiring additional deputies for the schools. This would include the cost of vehicles, computers and other equipment. The office would use asset forfeiture funds to cover to the cost.

The first option, recommended by then County Administrator Douglas Walker, calls for the county to spend $203,133 to fund four school resource officers, according to the memo.

A second option presented to the board March 14 by Carter called for the Sheriff's Office to fully fund the four deputy positions for the first year at a cost of $203,133 through asset forfeitures. The county then would fund the position in subsequent years. Walker did not support this option, according to Carter.

The third and fourth options call for the Sheriff's Office and the county to enter into a partnership at least for the next five fiscal periods. One of the options calls for the agency and county to share the expense equally from fiscal 2014 to 2018, each paying approximately $101,567 to cover the cost. The last option sets up a sliding scale of funding by the county and the Sheriff's Office.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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