MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. – Today the Marshall County Commission held a public hearing to consider an annual tax of up to $25 dollars on license plates to provide funding for 14 full-time school resource officers.
Several school officials spoke up for the measure, while some citizens voiced concerns over the cost of the program.
Gar Benson is a Marshall County Resident who said at the meeting “It’s not right to make people pay for something they don’t need and they don’t want.”
Several citizens said they want the officers but they do not agree with how the commission is considering to pay for the measure.
Marshall County school officials say funding for school resource officers is a necessity. Marshall County Schools Superintendent Dr. Cindy Wigley says the need for school resource officers is desperate, “We are in a crisis situation, we must have a full-time SRO at each of our schools and we don’t have that right now,” she says.
Wigley says the current law enforcement response time for rural Marshall County Schools is around 20 minutes.
Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims says if First responders are needed at a school, right now they will arrive too late. “Parkland Florida happened in 2018 with an active shooter situation in the high school, that lasted for 6 minutes before it ended. During those 6 minutes, 17 were killed, 17 were wounded. That’s between students and teachers,” Sims said in the meeting.
He says having a School Resource Officer could help secure the school and provides local law enforcement agencies with a point of contact to help them if they arrive at an emergency situation. Because the school resource officer knows the layout of the schools they are able to help law enforcement navigate if a situation arises.
The total cost to add a school resource officer at each Marshall County School would be around $1 million dollars according to the Marshall County Commission. That includes the resource officers wages and insurance as well as training and vehicles for each of the officers.
Superintendent Wigley says right now the school system only has the budget for 8 part-time officers and she says they are having a hard time keeping them because they are not able to pay a high enough wage. “We can’t keep them because we don’t pay enough they get offers other places,” she says.
There are still several questions including if the commission will impose the tax and if so, how much they will charge residents. The Commission discussed charging anywhere from $10-$20 dollars per tag annually though the law allows them to charge up to $25.
The Marshall County Commission could vote on the measure as soon as their next meeting which is scheduled on July 10.