Marshall County Executive Denies Grant Application for Additional SROs
Eight school resource officers were originally hired by the county after a 2018 shooting at Marshall County High School that claimed two lives.
A Kentucky school district where a deadly 2018 shooting took place won’t receive grant funding for additional school resource officers (SROs) after the county’s judge-executive declined to sign the application.
Earlier this year, the Marshall County Board of Education and the Marshall County Sheriff’s office started the process of applying for grant funding from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program in the U.S. Department of Education, reports WKMS. The money would be used to partially pay for three new SROs in the school district.
The district currently has eight SROs, including three at Marshall County High School where two students were killed and 18 others were injured by a student gunman on Jan. 23, 2018. South Marshall Middle School and North Marshall Middle School each have one officer and the three remaining officers cover the district’s six elementary schools. The additional SROs would have allowed the district to place one officer in each elementary school.
The grant application requires that the federal funds be supplemented by the sheriff’s office and the board of education. The sheriff’s office would have been responsible for paying around $30,000 of the $350,000 total value over the three-year period of administration.
In order to submit the grant application, the signature of County Judge-Executive Kevin Neal was required. On March 11, Sheriff Eddie McGuire met with Neal, who declined to sign the application. Neal said due to COVID-19 closures and tax extensions, occupational tax administration receipts from local businesses — which help fund the Fiscal Court — are a current “unknown” in the budget, according to The Paducah Sun.
At a virtual March 17 Marshall County Fiscal Court meeting, Neal said it is not the Fiscal Court’s responsibility to provide security for the school. Sheriff McGuire disagreed, saying Neal was putting a price on student safety and that the county will not be able to hire additional SROs without the grant funding.
“As the leader of this county, where’s your moral responsibility?” McGuire asked Neal. “I think there’s a lot of people that would say this does have to do with our moral compass.”
McGuire said even though he had to cut $200,000 from the sheriff’s office budget, he “absolutely” believes there was room in the county budget to fund its share of the COPS grant. He pointed to the county’s $800,000 park budget.
“When you’re trying to take care of the four corners of county government, your public safety should be up there next to the electric bill or the food on the table if you’re a family,” McGuire said. “The park is kind of like we’re making the four-wheeler payment before we’re paying the utilities.”
Neal was also criticized during the meeting by Second District Commissioner Kevin Spraggs, who pointed out that the proposed budget includes $28,340 in salary increases for two county employees.
“You just gave out $30,000 in raises at the last meeting. Are you kidding me?” he asked.
Neal defended the decision, stating it would save the county $25,000 by giving the two current county employees additional responsibilities instead of hiring a third employee.
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