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City hopes commissioners will reverse manager's call on SROs

Hendersonville City Council members are hoping that at least three county commissioners will vote next week to go beyond the county manager's recommended fiscal year 2020 budget and OK $200,000 to cover the cost of SROs in four county schools in the city limits.

County Manager Steve Wyatt rolled out a $146 million budget on Monday that funds county operations, debt service and capital improvements and includes money for 23 school resource officers, covering all but the four schools in the city of Hendersonville. All are county schools, and the city argues that the county should fund those, too.

In February, the City Council asked the county to appropriate $201,445 to cover the city officers serving as security at Hendersonville Elementary, Middle and High schools and Bruce Drysdale Elementary School.
Last year, in the wake of the school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, the Board of Commissioners committed to funding SROs in every county school except those in the city. Twice during budget drafting deliberations last spring commissioners rejected a request for $480,000 to cover the SROs in the city. The council slashed its request by $280,000 this year in hopes of a different outcome.
“It’s interesting to me that the city has been funding SROs in the school system,” Wyatt said. “The question been asked to me, what’s changed?” For the county, the SROs are a law enforcement expense, not a school system expense, he added, and school coverage should be a law enforcement expense for the city, too.

City Manager John Connet said he and council members hope commissioners will overrule Wyatt and vote to fund the SROs in the schools.
"Hendersonville stepped up a couple of years ago even before the county was able to put SROs in every school," Connet said. "The students in the schools are county citizens just as everybody else in the county. We would argue that even though schools are in the city, there are county residents that also go to the schools and we think county should pay their proportionate share for that. We’d only asked them to pay for the time that the officers are working in the schools and also we’re only asking them to pay for four when in fact we have hired five because we have one as a floater. We would hope that they would be inclined to help cover the cost of SROs in schools that are part of the Henderson County system."

At their regular meeting next Wednesday, commissioners are expected to make final tweaks in the budget before a public hearing on the spending plan on June 3. After cutting department heads' requests by $17 million and ratcheting up sales tax and sales tax revenue projections, Wyatt presented a budget funded by a tax rate of 51.1 cents, the revenue neutral rate, or the levy that would raise the same amount as the 2019 budget.