The Greensboro City Council decided not to pay $500,000 for the school resource officer (SRO) program in Guilford County Schools at the virtual budget work session on Tuesday, June 9.
It is probably the opening salvo in what will become a battle with Guilford County.
It should come as no surprise that because of recent events, Councilmember Michelle Kennedy has made a line item-by-line item inspection of the Police Department budget. Some of her ideas for reducing the police budget were shot down by fellow councilmembers, but one proposal that Kennedy did get a consensus on was to stop paying $500,000 a year to fund the SRO program in Guilford County Schools.
The total budget for the SRO program is about $1.6 million a year and Guilford County has been paying Greensboro about $1.1 million a year for the program, which assigns a police officer to every high school and middle school in the city.
Kennedy said, “I have an extreme concern about police in schools and it’s not something that the City of Greensboro should be spending its resources for.”
Kennedy said that the SROs contributed to the “school to prison pipeline.”
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter objected to being blindsided with the proposal to stop funding SROs and said she needed more information before making a decision.
She said, “Having not known about it and just finding out about it now really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
She said that if there had not been an SRO at Smith High School, a lot of students would have been killed.
Kennedy said that she was not talking about doing away with the SRO program, which is a Guilford County function, but that it was “another example of the City of Greensboro paying for costs that are associated with Guilford County.”
Police Chief Brian James said that Guilford County does pay the cost for the 17 officers in the schools, but that Guilford County didn’t pay for the supervision of those officers and other costs that amounted to about $500,000.
Councilmember Tammi Thurm said, “I do think the county needs to pay for the services they receive from us.”
Councilmember Justin Outling agreed and said, “This is their service, their function.” He also noted that this was not a decision about the value of the SRO program but a decision about whether the city wanted to continue to pay for something that is a county service.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan, who joined the meeting while in progress, said that the city needed to give the country a heads up on its decision because the contract came up for renewal in August and the county needed to be aware that the city did not plan to continue to subsidize the SRO program.
She added, “I will go along with this 100 percent because I’m tired of picking up the additional costs.”
Councilmember Goldie Wells asked that it be discussed with the county first and added, “I don’t think our parents in the city are going to like it.”
There was some discussion about notifying Guilford County of the decision and Hightower said, “It will be in the Rhino for sure.”
It’s difficult to follow the informal votes at regular City Council work sessions, and nearly impossible at a virtual work session but it appeared that the only no vote on ending the $500,000 subsidization of the SRO program was Abuzuaiter.