When the Troutman Board of Aldermen convenes its 2011-12 budget workshop starting at 2 p.m. Friday in Town Hall, members will have an additional item to consider: whether the town should pay for a school resource officer for Troutman Middle School.
In the past, the Iredell-Statesville School System has covered the $52,000 annual cost for an officer at the middle school. In recent weeks, however, word has been spreading around the community that the funding for the middle school officer was being eliminated starting in the fall.
In North Carolina, school resource officers are certified law enforcement officers (in this case a Troutman Police Department member) permanently assigned to a specific school or a set of schools. The officer is specifically trained to perform three roles: law enforcement officer; law-related counselor; and law-related education teacher.
"We've been given a ship with a hole in the bottom," school board member Bill Brater said at a meeting April 11 between aldermen and senior Iredell County school officials. "The district has cut and cut, and the only thing left to cut now are teachers or SROs."
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Without making any firm commitments, some aldermen appeared sympathetic to the school officials' appeal.
"From what I have heard, parents are outraged that they may not have a middle school officer next year," said Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Spath. He agreed the town should consider the request along with next year's town budget.
Mayor Elbert Richardson expressed doubts.
"I'd have a hard time justifying to our citizens paying for the entire cost, though I would be in favor of paying a portion of it," he said.
The town faces a fiscal squeeze between the effect of the countywide property revaluation and the state budget's to-be-determined effect.
Town Manager David Saleeby hinted that the presentation of the budget, usually done in May, could slide to June this year because of all the unknown monetary factors. By state law, the town must adopt its budget before July 1.
Troutman Middle School has about 400 students in sixth through eighth grades.
The school district is expected to continue funding a resource officer at South Iredell High School in Troutman.
Annexation moves forward
The town has agreed to annex most of the homes located in the Eastern Heights subdivision at the request of 21 residents. Despite reservations from the town's planning staff, board members concurred with the homeowners.
"If I lived that close to Town Hall, I'd want to be annexed into the town, too," alderman Curt Rogers said.