A months-long debate concerning the funding of Marshall County’s school resource officers came to a close Tuesday after the county fiscal court approved a budget that keeps the SRO program under the authority of the sheriff’s department.
The controversy began in March when Judge-Executive Kevin Neal declined to sign a grant application that would have funded additional officers in the county schools. Neal later proposed a plan to remove the SRO program from the purview of the sheriff’s office. Community members rallied in support of the SROs and all three county commissioners opposed Neal’s plan.
Tuesday’s vote followed contentious budget meetings where county leaders sparred over the issue. Marshall County faced a potentially devastating budget crisis after decreased revenue estimates due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fiscal court slashed spending and used conservative revenue estimates to write the new budget.
Sheriff Eddie McGuire was a leader in the movement to preserve the existing SRO funding model. He said, despite conflict along the way, he is pleased with how the budget process ended. He said the budget expands SRO funding to allow for an officer in every school, but the sheriff’s office will lose funding for one patrol deputy.
“It took three months to get down to a seven-minute meeting,” McGuire said, “A lot of ups and downs and a rollercoaster of emotions, but obviously you’re never really happy with how a budget turns out.”
Second District Commissioner Kevin Spraggs told WKMS last week the new SROs make the bumps in the appropriations process worth it. Spraggs repeatedly emphasized at previous court meetings that he would not support a county budget that strips SRO funding from the sheriff’s department.
Third District Commissioner Monti Collins released a statement on his Facebook page commending department heads and county officials for their hard work throughout budget negotiations. He said he appreciated the county residents that reached out to express their opinions on SRO funding and other budget issues.
“I'm certain that a few of the meetings looked contentious and they were at times, but we are not always going to agree with each other. But in the end, we were able to compromise and come to an agreement and that is what is most important,” Collins said.
Cities and counties in Kentucky are statutorily obligated to present their budgets to the state Department for Local Government for approval as part of the appropriations process. Marshall County’s budget required two first readings after the DLG ruled “significant changes” were made to the spending plan. June 30’s second reading and final vote comes one day before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.