Clark County commissioners plan to spend more than $96,000 this year and $118,000 next year to hire deputies to boost school security, but concerns have been raised whether the county can afford the program.
Commissioners voted 2-1 to pay for the Educational Support Officers program starting June 1 that will allow the Clark County Sheriff’s Office to hire two new deputies.
Sheriff Gene Kelly has said the additional manpower will give him the resources needed for the program in which deputies will patrol county schools similar to the resource officers at Springfield City Schools.
The idea came from Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes in response to the Newtown, Conn., elementary school shootings in December when 26 children and staff were gunned down.
Lohnes has said deputies patrolling the schools each week could help make schools safer.
“It’s probably not as good as you would like, where you would have deputies in every school, but it’s a heck of a lot better than what we had,” Lohnes said.
The program supported by Lohnes and Commissioner John Detrick will cost more than $96,300 in its first year, with the bulk of the money going toward salaries and benefits for two new deputies, according to County Administrator Nathan Kennedy.
Salary and benefits costs for the two deputies are expected to total more than $114,900 for the second year, Kennedy said.
In addition to those costs, two cruisers also would need to be purchased.
Kennedy presented the budget for the program to county commissioners on Tuesday and recommended delaying a decision on it because of the potential loss of state money later this year.
Lohnes and Detrick approved paying for it program with the caveat that the county could back out of the plan later this year. The positions will be advertised but the county won’t hire any deputies until they know how much state funding they will receive.
Commissioner David Hartley, however, passed on voting on the issue even with the caveat of reversing it later this year.
Hartley said they should have waited until they were certain the budget could support it.
“I’m very nervous about our committing money that we may not possibly have,” Hartley said.
Kennedy said the county has requests from organizations to provide $100,000 toward a new agricultural bio-science school.
The county was also recently asked to provide $17,500 for an economic development study by the Dayton Development Coalition. And discussions are ongoing on how much the county will give to Prime Ohio II Corporate Park, Kennedy said.
Kennedy said he doesn’t know if the county can afford to pay for the Educational Support Officers program.
“I’m concerned about state funding period,” Kennedy. “You always have that fear and it goes well beyond this year. In theory it could turn out really good … But we don’t know.”
Northwestern Local Schools Superintendent Tony Orr said the officers programs will increase the presence of law enforcement in the district as German Twp. police now patrol the schools and the district also has a DARE officer.
“Anything the sheriff can do would be a bonus,” Orr said. “The visibility of law enforcement is a positive. Is it a deterrent? Columbine had two (school resource officers) in the building. I don’t know if there’s a 100 percent full-proof way to deter evil. But we try to remain vigilant and with that we try to do everything we can to keep our kids safe.”