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Editorial: Don't put a price on the safety of students

While Sheriff Richard Nugent and Superintendent Wayne Alexander haggle about who will pay for deputies and crossing guards at Hernando County's schools, they must pledge never to allow monetary obstacles to overshadow their obligation to students' safety.

Nugent recently informed Alexander that he no longer may be able to pay his share because of anticipated cuts in property tax revenue. It costs $979,000 a year to station a school resource officer at each middle, K-8 and high school. Of that total, the School Board pays about $410,000 for the middle school deputies, and the sheriff funds the remainder at $569,000. Crossing guards draw another $72,000 from the sheriff's accounts.

If Nugent can't pay, Alexander said he may have to consider cutting the middle school and K-8 deputies, and shift the district's money to pay for deputies at the high schools, which he considers the highest priority.

It is unfortunate that the shortsighted attempt at tax reform known as Amendment 1, which voters passed in January, is forcing such difficult choices. This example is one of many more that likely will emerge in coming months as local governments look for ways to drastically reduce spending.

But this negotiation also underscores the need for government representatives, elected and appointed, to continue to provide the services that are the bedrock of our every community. Public safety is one such service and it should not be compromised, especially when it comes to children.

It probably is a healthy exercise for the superintendent and sheriff to put the school resource officers program under a microscope. Studying the deputies' schedules, accomplishments and shortcomings may yield ideas for streamlining duties, consolidating services or other cost-savings measures. Each position should be justified. The same goes for crossing guards.

But after that objective analysis is done, the policymakers need to confront their difficult financial decisions from the perspective that safeguarding students is their paramount responsibility.

If that requires placing lower priorities on other programs, so be it.

Editorial: Don't put a price on the safety of students 03/13/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 11:13am]

    

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