BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson and Director of Sullivan County Schools Jubal Yennie have asked the Sullivan County Commission to approve funding for seven new school resource officers.
The new SROs — including one sergeant — would be assigned to each of the county’s seven middle schools: Blountville; Bluff City; Colonial Heights; Holston; Holston Valley; Mary Hughes; and Sullivan.
Anderson and Yennie formally presented the request, including a breakdown of costs, to the county commission earlier this week.
Anderson has asked for more SROs for several years.
Yennie said the school department supports Anderson’s request for new officers as a part of its identified comprehensive strategy for school and community safety.
“This is the best thing we can do to protect our children,” Anderson said. “It is not a cure-all, but it is better to have somebody there.”
“We’ve been talking about it for quite a while,” Yennie said, noting a task force met last spring to develop a strategy for making schools safer.
Anderson said the startup cost for the seven new SROs would be $531,000, including one-time costs for equipment, training, uniforms and weapons.
The annual cost afterward, including salaries and benefits, would be $354,000.
That’s about a penny on the county’s property tax rate.
Anderson said he and Yennie were bringing the proposal up now because the county commission often postpones requests for new spending until midway through the county’s budget cycle — which begins each July 1 and runs through June 30 of the following calendar year.
Yennie noted the request was not in the form of a resolution. Anderson said they wanted to get the information out in hopes commission members will put the proposal in resolution form next month.
As for the school system’s identified comprehensive strategy for school and community safety, Yennie said additional SROs are one component of four areas that must be addressed to keep county schools safe for students: school climate and culture; security personnel; behavioral threat assessment; and physical threat assessment.
Yennie said progress has been made, and continues, toward upgrades at county schools to make facilities more secure — such as installation of buzzer-entry systems, better video camera systems, and identifying schools that need a double door entry.
And, Yennie said, programs have been started to train administrators and teachers to improve safety.
But funding has not been available to provide additional security personnel or to allow implementation of comprehensive physical and behavioral threat assessments.