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Commissioners again decline to fund SROs at schools in city

The Henderson County Board of Commissioners ratified its earlier decision that rejected funding police officers covering four schools in the city of Hendersonville.

The commissioners adopted a new $142,223,087 budget on Monday night with only one change from the final number they settled on during a May 16 budget workshop. They appropriated $100,000 to add a staffer at the Department of Public Health to coordinate work by a task force against opioid addiction.
Commissioner Bill Lapsley again asked his colleagues to add $500,000 to cover the cost of adding SROs at Bruce Drysdale Elementary School and Hendersonville elementary, middle and high schools. The Hendersonville City Council, which currently funds two officers to provide school security, had already committed to add three more officers in the city’s fiscal year 2118-19 budget — one for each school plus a backup.

As the commissioners took up a few unresolved issues, Lapsley pointed out that after commissioners said the council had not asked for the funding, the council called a special meeting to do just that, via a formal resolution. Still, three other commissioners said no.
The board’s decision came after some confusion over the number of new deputies in the budget and how many schools they would cover. At one point, there was even confusion over the number of schools in the county school system. There are 22 school buildings but one, the Innovative High School on the BRCC campus, houses two different programs — the Henderson County Early College and Career Academy.
The budget as recommended by County Manager Steve Wyatt and generally supported by the commissioners during the budget work session funds 14 new SROs, for a total of 22. Since there are 22 school buildings — counting the four in Hendersonville — commissioners thought the budget already covered the schools in the city. It does not, Wyatt told the board. A sheriff’s captain over support services confirmed that.
“Currently by adding 22, that’s only going to cover the schools in the county with one relief” deputy, Capt. Bengy Bryant told commissioners. Asked what 22 SROs would do during the summer, Bryant said some would cover the sheriff’s office’s STAR camp, a program for teenagers teaching substance-abuse avoidance, and others would be assigned “to help in those busy times during the summer,” Bryant said.
Commissioner Grady Hawkins said the board had made the clear commitment shortly after the Parkland, Florida, school shooting to add SROs to all schools “so it comes down to how to pay for it.”
In its resolution asking for funding for the four officers, the City Council also said that it wanted those to remain city officers, as two SROs are now.
“I don’t know that I’d be in favor of contract with the city of Hendersonville to provide SROs. I think that’s the duty of Henderson County,” Hawkins said.
Lapsley repeated his position that it’s unfair to the city, whose residents also pay county taxes, to foot the bill for SROs.
“Property owners inside the Hendersonville city limits, just like those in Mills River, the town of Fletcher or Flat Rock, are also county taxpayers and I think it’s unfair for this board to put the burden on them," he said.
Commissioners adopted the budget on a 3-1 vote, with Lapsley voting no. Chairman Michael Edney was absent because of an illness in his family.