After much debate over where to pull funding from, the Marshall County Commission set a public hearing to impose a possible $20 fee on vehicle tags for county residents.
In order for Marshall County Schools to have a school resource officer (SRO) in each of its 14 schools, the county board of education (BOE) had to request funding assistance from the commission Wednesday. Marshall County Commission Chairman James Hutcheson said the county schools were able to get its first part-time SROs from funds that the state legislators gave to the county in 2010, but he said that was “just a band-aid” for the issue.
Marshall County Schools Superintendent Cindy Wigley, Ph. D., attended the meeting, and she gave a brief presentation to inform the commission of the precarious position the county schools are in. She said county schools only have four, part-time SROs currently secured for the upcoming school year. The SROs would have to cover all 14 county schools, which makes protecting the students successfully impossible in an active shooter situation, she said.
“Our No. 1 problem, our most immediate issue, is the safety of our students,” Wigley said. “It’s the very basic thing that we do. The sheriff and I have researched grants trying to find funding for SROs. They’re just not there. People don’t want to be responsible for someone carrying a gun. So, they don’t give money to that.”
With 5,680 students from pre-K to 12th grade and more than 1 million square feet of facilities, the county schools’ current SROs cannot effectively do their job, Wigley said. Without additional funds, she said the county school system couldn’t afford the salaries of the SROs needed to cover all 14 schools.
Unfortunately, Hutcheson said the commission doesn’t have the funds to assist with the cost of more SROs in the county schools. He said the only way to acquire additional funds would be to add a fee to the county vehicle tags. Initially, he said the fee should be $20 and then it could possibly taper down to $15 after the first year. After much discussion, the commission agreed to hold a public hearing June 26, at 9 a.m. in the commission chambers at the county courthouse in Guntersville.