By Chris Gregory, Managing Editor

A budget amendment to fund equipment and training for two new school resource officers (SROs) required a tiebreaking approval vote from County Mayor Carroll Carman during Monday night’s County Commission meeting.

The request was for a $100,000 draw from the school system’s fund balance to pay for training, two cars and other necessary equipment. The Budget & Finance Committee took no vote on the amendment during its May 21 meeting after a motion to approve died for lack of a second.

The vote of the full Commission resulted in a 9-9 tie. Under the county’s metropolitan charter, the mayor casts the tiebreaking vote in such a situation.

Submitted photo
Carroll Carman

“I do not disrespect those that voted no and I understand we may have the cart before the horse right now,” Carman said before casting his vote. “I believe this is the proper decision.”

Commissioners Mark Beeler, Kendra Belcher, Wayne Brown, Gary Claridy, Richard Harsh, Richard Johnson, Rachel Jones, Gary Walsh and Steve Whittaker voted no. Yes votes were cast by Shane Burton, Jim Falco, Bill Fergusson, Jerry Ford, Linda Sue Johnson, James McDonald, David Nollner, John Oliver and Amber Russell. Commissioners Don Coker and Bubba Gregory were not present at the meeting.

During his mayor’s report, Carman told commissioners that he had reached an agreement with Director of Schools Clint Satterfield to split the cost of three SROs between the county and the schools.

Currently, the schools pay approximately $50,000 for the existing SRO position at the high school. Under the proposed agreement, both the county and schools will pay $75,000 for SROs at all three schools.

While the $100,000 for training comes from the school’s fund balance, Carman told The Vidette that under the agreement to split costs, the county would credit the schools for $50,000 of that amount.

“It’s all together in one expense,” Carman said to commissioners. “This is a non-reoccurring amount. We still have to approve all the dynamics of SROs, but I believe we have a good working arrangement.”

Funding for the actual SRO positions themselves must still come from the County Commission and will be discussed during budget hearings this week.

“We are most appreciative of the commissioners and the mayor for allowing the (School) Board to use its unassigned fund balance to purchase SRO patrol cars, equipment, and training which is at no cost to the County Commission,” Satterfield said in a statement to The Vidette.

“At the same time, we need to quickly garner more support in order to get this done by the first day of school that begins on July 26. Although the mayor did a good job of explaining the cost sharing or 50/50 split, I’m not sure if all the commissioners understood the fine details. I had several commissioners speak to me after the vote that they were in favor of SROs but were confused on the funding mechanism.”

In addition to the SRO amendment, a number of budget amendments were passed. Most were internal transfers to clean up overages in certain areas, but three others required draws from fund balances and received unanimous approval:

$51,262 from the county’s general fund balance for various charges;

$21,000 from the Solid Waste Department’s fund balance; and

$7,809 from the Ambulance Service’s fund balance.

Commissioners also approved four ordinances on first reading. The first would add a sixth position to the Water Board. That position would be filled by the mayor, subject to commissioners’ approval.

The other three were zoning ordinances: 15 acres on Fort Blount Road from A-1 to R-1; 6 acres on Western Avenue from I-1 to R-1; and property on Highway 231 from A-1 to R-1. All four ordinances will come back for public hearings and second votes at the June meeting.

A proposed 3 percent hotel/motel tax also passed on third and final reading. With a hotel feasibility study now complete and at least one chain looking at Hartsville, commissioners previously determined that a tax on rooms was desirable.

Commissioners also approved the reappointment of Sissy Harper to the Water Board for a four-year term and Beeler to a 30-day appointment as interim fire chief.

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.