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Editorial: Kudos to Sullivan County Commission

Editorial Board • Jul 25, 2018 at 2:45 PM

It’s not often we have opportunity to pat the Sullivan County Commission on the back, but kudos are well deserved in one recent vote, and we offer them in advance of another where we trust commissioners will support the safety of schoolchildren.

We have long advocated that the commission should cut its size for purposes of efficiency and to save tens of thousands of dollars annually. Sullivan County has 24 commissioners, who all but trip over each other in monthly meetings.

Three years ago, the Washington County Commission reduced it number from 25 to 15, which went into effect this year. And earlier this year, the Hawkins County Commission voted to cut its size from 21 to 14 commissioners beginning in 2022. That put the heat on Sullivan County.

The last time Sullivan commissioners acted on a resolution to trim the fat was two years ago, when they voted down a proposal to reduce their numbers by but three members, which would have saved taxpayers more than $20,000 annually. Sullivan commissioners are the highest paid in the region.

But in an unexpected vote and by a narrow margin, commissioners voted to reduce the commission’s membership to 18 effective in 2022.

That’s not ideal, but it’s a start, and the first reduction in decades.

If the new commission that takes office in September doesn’t reverse the action, six commissioners will be removed, saving $50,000 a year.

The new commission would act in the best interest of taxpayers by cutting another six, reducing the commission’s size to 12 members and saving $100,000 annually.

The current commission would also be acting in taxpayers’ best interests by approving the 2018-2019 school budget, which adds 14 armed school resource officers providing a total of 18 — or one in every county school building that has students. That should be standard for every district in the state, and the Sullivan County Board of Education is providing leadership that should be duplicated statewide.

This will be expensive, amounting to more than $700,000 annually. For next year, half the money is included in the school budget and the other half in Sheriff Wayne Anderson’s budget. For students to be protected in every county school, the County Commission must approve both budgets when it meets Aug. 20. If you support this initiative, you should make that known to your commissioner and by attending the Aug. 20 meeting.

The Lee County School Board is also to be commended for a policy to allow school employees to be armed on school property. The policy allows the school system to enter into a program that designates certain teachers to be trained (the integral and most important part of this plan) and armed, adding protection at schools where officers are unavailable.

Protecting our children in school is a primary responsibility of local government.

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