Compromise On Deputies

Resource officers in Brooke County public schools seem to be between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Finding a way out of the dilemma is important.

Brooke County commissioners and county school officials are at loggerheads over the situation, as we have reported. In a nutshell, it is this:

Five sheriff’s deputies serve as resource officers in Brooke County schools (another resource officer is employed by the Wellsburg Police Department).

One of the deputies had been serving as a resource officer, prior to an agreement a few years ago between commissioners and the school system. Commissioner Tim Ennis has said that agreement called for resource officers to be funded through the school system’s special tax levy program. Four more deputies were hired and trained as resource officers after the agreement was made.

“Those jobs wouldn’t have been created if the board hadn’t agreed to fully fund them,” Ennis said Tuesday. “We don’t have money in the budget” to pay the four deputies, Sheriff Larry Palmer added.

But education officials are short on money, too, as a result of an error that left the school system with $3.2 million a year less than had been anticipated.

Now, the board of education is suggesting that the school system pay only the portion of resource officers’ salaries that covers their actual time spent in schools. Exactly how much of a difference that would make has not been reported — though clearly, it could be substantial.

The bottom line is that neither commissioners nor school officials have funds available to ensure all four deputies are paid their full salaries.

“We’ve got to open up a line of communication with (the school board) and get this resolved,” Ennis emphasized this week.

Precisely. Exactly how that can happen is unclear. It may be that the number of deputies will have to be reduced, with resource officer duties spread among those remaining.

But ending the program — leaving some schools without at least part-time resource officers — should not be considered. The initiative is simply too important to Brooke County children.


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