Dickson gets school system to pay part of SRO cost to free up money for bus service grants

To find the money in its new budget for its $32,000 share of grants to create a new bus service to Nashville, the city of Dickson has negotiated for the Dickson County Board of Education to assume a share of the salary and benefits for one school resource officer. Mayor Don Weiss announced during Monday’s special session on the 2014-15 budget that the school system will contribute $43,077.25 toward the annual cost of one SRO starting July 1. The Dickson Police Department has been funding full-time SROs at Dickson County High School and Dickson Middle School for the last four years. Weiss said each SRO costs the city $60,543.47 annually in salary and benefits and Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks has agreed to fund the equivalent of 185 days of that salary. “We have based our calculation for the upcoming school year on 180 work days. There also is a required SRO in-service training of 40 hours. This brings the total commitment to school activities to 185 days per officer,” City Administrator Rydell Wesson states in a June 12 letter to Weeks. Wesson’s letter says the city will invoice the school system for quarterly payments of $10,769.31. While that money was not included in the $70 million budget approved by the school board last month and the county commission Monday night, Weeks said the SRO positions are important enough to the school system that it will have to find the money. “After much discussion with City Manager Wesson, we believe it was in our best interest to maintain the SRO position at DMS, which we otherwise believe would have been in jeopardy,” Weeks said in an email. “As safety and security remain system priorities, in order to maintain a positive learning environment, we will make adjustments to our budget in order to maintain the position.” Jeremy Wall is currently the SRO at Dickson County High School and Jessica Blackwell is assigned to Dickson Middle. In addition to DCHS and DMS, Weeks said Creek Wood High School has a full-time SRO for which the school system reimburses the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office and New Directions Academy has an SRO who also can serve Charlotte Middle School, which is funded by a grant and the sheriff’s office. William James Middle School has access to an officer from the White Bluff Police Department when needed but does not have a full-time SRO. The SRO positions funded by the city and $1 million additional sales tax revenue contributed annually to education were recently cited by school board Chairman Tim Potter as reasons he recommended the school system not pursue collection of about $500,000 in past-due mixed drink tax revenue owed by Dickson.