The Livingston County Finance Committee continued to work on its budget for fiscal year 2019 at the committee’s Wednesday night meeting. One budgeted item brought up by Livingston County Sheriff Tony Childress generated considerable discussion: the creation of a school resource officer program for the Tri-Point and Flanagan consolidated schools within the Livingston County Sheriff’s Police.

Ultimately, the committee motioned to continue working on the budget with such considerations put in place.

At a special meeting of the Finance Committee on July 31, the sheriff had first proposed the program, but at a considerably higher expense of approximately $256,000. The committee had asked Childress to review the numbers and see if cost reductions were possible.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, he introduced the members of Finance Committee to Tri-Point Superintendent Jeff Brian and apprised them that he drastically cut those costs.

“We met with Mr. Brian and Mr. Jerry Farris, the superintendent of Flanagan schools, yesterday and it would seem at this point that everybody is on the same page,” Childress said. “Those schools are willing to contribute $50,000 towards school resource officers.”

    The sheriff noted that he, LCSP deputy Michael Glowacki, Livingston County Board Executive Director Alina Hartley and Livingston County Finance Director Diane Schwahn met to further revise the proposal, and ended up pulling the request of funds to purchase new vehicles for the resource officers, which he said further brought the $256,000 request down about $100,000.

    “Once we did the numbers over again, and we looked at the radio program and the installs for those, we came up with an approximate cost of $25,000 per officer, which is a tremendous reduction, I think, from $256,000,” he added. “We looked at again and we were able to discern that $8,000 of that $25,000 would be just the costs for the initial year for radio, computer, repeater and install costs, so after that initial year, it would only be $17,000 it would cost you guys per officer.”

    Childress said that he hoped the county would support him financially as his department hired two new officers to offset the loss of those who would become full-time, dedicated resource officers, who he said would be thoroughly vetted veterans of the sheriff’s police.

    “We just feel that it’s absolutely necessary at this point in light of the way we saw how the last school year closed out with all the school shootings in the United States,” the sheriff continued. “We just want to be proactive here in Livingston County. The sheriff’s office feels that it’s absolutely necessary for us to do this, so that we’re protecting the children in the high schools here in Livingston County.”

    Bryan chimed in to say that the money that his school would annually contribute was “solid,” and that he fully supported of the program.

    Hartley explained to committee members that they could draft it in a way that made the county’s contribution contingent upon the continued funding coming in from the schools via an intergovernmental agreement.

    After a lengthy discussion which also included other budgetary minutiae such as the preliminary approval of a smaller corporate levy, meaning a marginally reduced property tax rate — “About $4 less per $100,000 home than where we are currently,” said committee member Jason Bunting — the committee OK’d the changes it had made and would continue its work on the budget with Hartley.