On Tuesday, June 9, the Greensboro City Council agreed to cut $500,000 in funding for the school resource officer (SRO) program that serves Guilford County Schools – well, that news went over like lead balloon among Guilford County Commissioners.
Or, really, more like a giant flaming and crashing object such as the Hindenburg.
In short, the move by the City Council did not sit well at all with the Guilford County commissioners, who consider the program – which is jointly funded by the city and the county –important to the security of the schools. The SRO’s work in schools to protect the students from outside threats and they also keep watch for situations where students are likely to harm other students.
In recent years, Guilford County Commissioner Justin Conrad has made school security his top priority, so when he learned that the City Council was cutting out $500,000 for the program that totals $1.6 million annually, Conrad was greatly disturbed.
On Wednesday, June 10, he spoke on the phone with nearly all of the other commissioners – who, he said, were also very disturbed.
Conrad said he first learned of the move in the Rhino Times, and, when he read about it, he was shocked that the City Council would even consider something like that. He said he was also upset that the council “blindsided” the commissioners.
“I started making calls after I saw the article,” Conrad said. “It’s really disappointing that they would take something that’s been in place for 20 years and then would blindside another elected board eight days – eight days – before we’re set to adopt a budget.”
“What is the city doing here?” he added.
The Greensboro City Council hasn’t approved a final 2020-2021 budget and Conrad said he hopes that the City Council strongly reconsiders its current path.
“My hope is that cooler heads will prevail,” he said.
Conrad said that, based on his conversations with school officials, it’s his understanding that Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras also had no forewarning about the impending cut.
According to Commissioner Conrad, Guilford County will fund the program by itself if has to, but he added that, if the county has to come up with another half-million dollars to make up for what the city is cutting out, then he’s not sure where that money will come from. (Read: That money will come directly from some service that benefits the city.)
He said it’s very unfortunate if this ends up in some sort of “tit-for tat” financing battle between the city and the county, and he said that he really feels like that sort of relationship unraveling would not be beneficial for the city in the end.
“We shouldn’t be in this type of confrontational situation, but we didn’t start this,” Conrad said.
Conrad, who led a move in 2018 by the county to get millions of dollars quickly to the school system to enhance the security of school buildings, is a parent.
“This is something that transcends race; it transcends economics; it transcends everything,” he said. “Every parent that sends a kid off to school each morning wants to know that their kid will return home safely.”
The Board of Commissioners is expected to adopt a final county budget on Thursday, June 18. That budget contains all sorts of items that benefit Greensboro such as money for Downtown Greensboro Inc., the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, the city’s libraries, and much more.
Or, at least, the county budget usually contains that funding.