The July 24 Marshall County Commission meeting ended without consensus on the SRO tag fee. That was the correct action considering the understanding and desires of the various commissioners.
Every commissioner agreed SROs are needed in the county schools.
How to pay for them was not in agreement as was who would be exempt from the tag fee. The range was from no fee (pay for the SROs from the county general fund) to $10, $12 or $20 for a tag fee.
The county school superintendent could not even commit to continue paying the current $50,000 going toward existing SROs.
The exemptions, although voted on at the last meeting, were also not clear to everyone. All commissioners agreed people aged 65 or older or disabled per Social Security would not pay the fee.
However, there was not a clear understanding between limiting the tag fee to no more than two per household or no limits.
The minutes from the last meeting did not address limiting the number of vehicles. Still, one or two commissioners felt that had been the case and had told their constituents of the limit.
I see only two options – limit the tag fee to no more than two fees per individual vehicle owner and/or put a maximum of no more than five fees per address.
Additionally, it should be stated when a vehicle title has at multiple names on it (i.e. husband/wife, parent/child, etc.) the vehicle is exempt if either person is 65 or older or disabled per Social Security.
The only thing that was cleared up were the SRO vehicles and that was accidental. Initially, SROs were to be given fully decked-out deputy sheriff patrol vehicles.
Now, the vehicles will be more of a light duty vehicle with full markings, lights, communications and detainee space but not up to the normal robust standard of a full-fledged patrol vehicle.
This saves some money.
It was expressed that a marked sheriff vehicle at a school would provide some deterrence without necessarily being able to transport detainees or chase bad guys down the highway or through the fields.
One item that has not been discussed is how to divide the expense of an SRO, equipment and vehicle between the tag fee funds and the sheriff’s budget.
An SRO will not be doing school security on days the schools are closed for holidays, fall, Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, nor at all schools during the summertime.
Generally, this is about one fifth to one fourth of the time for a full time SRO. With the annual pay and benefits of an SRO at $47,000, this works out to $131,600 to $164,500 a year for non-SRO time.
During this non-school time, SRO will be working as regular deputies.
By law, no SRO tag fee funds can be used in support of these activities. The sheriff is supposed to somehow track the use of these people between SRO duties and other deputy duties.
No one could explain how the SRO tag fee fund is to be reimbursed for these non-SRO hours.
Generally, the SRO tag fee has been discussed piecemeal but the sum of the pieces did not make it whole (July 24).
They’ll try again at the next meeting.