January 21, 2014 —
MONTICELLO, NY — The Sullivan County Legislature on January 21 unanimously approved a resolution to provide three school districts with armed school resource officers (SRO) through the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office. The school districts will pick up 70% of the cost of salaries and benefits. The cost to the county in 2014 will be about $150,000.
The deal was made with the Livingston Manor Central School District, the Monticello Central School District and the Tri-Valley Central School District. There was a bit of urgency to the vote because the next possibility of getting new officers into the New York State Police Academy occurs in March; candidates must complete training at the academy before they can serve.
Dr. Deborah Fox, superintendent of the Livingston Manor schools, said her district previously had an SRO through the New York State Police, but that arrangement ended in 2010 because of budgetary considerations.
She said, “I see the roll of the SRO being fivefold: visibility—research shows just having the police car at the entrance of the school can deter criminal activity; prevention and education— we want to prevent problems and teach children how important law enforcement is in our community; communications—the SRO would be a bridge of communications between the school district and the law enforcement community; relationship building with students, staff, parents in the community; and lastly, and perhaps the most important when needed, is crises response.”
Daniel A. Teplesky, superintendent of the Monticello Central School District, and Larry Thomas, superintendent of Sullivan County BOCES, were also at the meeting and gave similar details about the function of an SRO. BOCES already has an SRO.
Legislator Gene Benson asked why only three of the eight districts in the county had requested this arrangement. Legislator Kathy LaBuda said now that the legislature has approved the arrangement, the legislature will have to provide the same deal to other districts should they request it, and that would come with tough choices. Shesaid it’s difficult, if not impossible, to stay within the Albany-mandated 2% property tax cap and still adequately provide for public safety.
Fox said other districts have other security arrangements. Liberty Central School District and Fallsburg Central School Districts have security arrangements with their local police departments, and Eldred Central School has a deal with a security company.
The other schools, Sullivan West Central School District and Roscoe School District, were not mentioned at the meeting, and the superintendents of those schools could not immediately be reached for comment.
As the meeting came to a close, LaBuda said, “While this may be a necessary evil, to me it’s a sad day when you think that you have to put armed officers in our school districts. And I wonder where the future of our country is headed.”