Last week a Memphis television news outlet reported a story whose headline suggested Tipton County would be losing its school resource officers.
Aired the same week as the second deadliest shooting in American history, the story was an obvious cause for concern for parents of students attending Tipton County’s public schools. Superintendent John Combs issued a statement last week clarifying the matter.
No, Tipton County Schools is not cutting its SROs.
Combs said the idea that the district would be cutting SROs is “ludicrous.”
In an email to county commissioners and The Leader on May 26, he said, “Not once … ever … did I say we were losing or cutting SRO positions. If anything, we need more.”
Combs said his comments were about the grant funding the district is losing from the state which helped compensate four of the seven positions TCS currently has.
“I told them we were going to have to find ways to fund them ourselves.”
How much is TCS losing?
The district has been funding its SROs using two state grants – one funds three SROs and security equipment, like cameras, and the other one covers compensation for the other four SROs.
Combs said the district was notified about a month ago that the funds were no longer available and what was left would be divided.
This means the $35,000 per officer – $140,000 annually – was cut and will only provide $14,000 per officer this upcoming school year.
The Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) funding model, which will begin with the 2023-24 school year, is supposed to cover SROs.
“So next year is a gap year with funding. We’re gonna take care of that.”
Putting an SRO in every school
Combs said ultimately his goal is to have an SRO in every school. Next week he plans to ask when he presents his proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year to the school board and the following week the county commission’s finance committee.
He wants to use $500,000 from the fund balance – $50,000 per SRO – to do this.
The state, Combs said, should be the one funding resource officers.
“Our funds should pay for textbooks, technology, fields, and things like that … they should fund security. That’s just me being a dreamer, though. We’ll take care of that next year and hope TISA takes care of it after that.”