As they work on the county government’s next annual budget, supervisors have for a second time debated the merits of putting sheriff’s deputies in all 58 public elementary schools in Loudoun.
The idea was first voiced in a joint press release between Sheriff Michael Chapman and John Whitbeck, the candidate seeking to unseat County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large). Chapman did not actually include the idea in his budget request to county supervisors, answering questions before the meeting that “this item will be for a future Board of Supervisors and it is not relevant to this year’s budget request.”
During a budget work session March 4, Randall pushed Chapman to request the funding and offered to make a motion on the board to support it, pointing out the current Board of Supervisors has never declined to provide funding for a school resource officer.
As recently as March 8, Chapman’s office called the proposal “speculative,” and said the office had not yet coordinated with the school board or county administration, and that the idea “needs to be implemented in a responsible, incremental, and methodical fashion.”
And during a work session Monday night that push continued.
“If we had been asked in the past for school resource officers in the elementary schools, we would have approved them, because you have never brought a request for an SRO that we did not say yes to,” Randall said. She requested adding more than $2 million to the county budget to start the program with 13 school resource officers and one program supervisor.
Other supervisors were skeptical of the election-year sparring. Vice Chairman Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) called the proposal “a false sense of security,” and suggested offsetting that cost by taking it out of the proposed school budget appropriation.
“Children’s safety is incredibly important, and this only benefits our children and only benefits our schools,” he said. “However, if there is any price tag associated with it, I’m going to offset it somewhere else.”
Supervisor Matthew F. Letourneau (R-Dulles) was likewise skeptical.
“I just don’t see the SROs at the elementary schools being very busy,” Letourneau said. He and Buona pointed out the School Board has not yet been consulted—or indeed had a meeting since the last budget work session a week before. Buona suggested a more systematic approach, starting with the Joint School Board/Board of Supervisors Committee, which meets again in May.
“Why can’t we do this at a later meeting and decide after the School Board’s had a chance to look at it?” asked Supervisor Geary M. Higgins (R-Catoctin). He moved to table the discussion until later, which supervisors supported 4-3-2, with Supervisor Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) absent and Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) having left.
So far, supervisors are still on track for a real estate tax rate of $1.045 per $100 of assessed value, a 4-cent tax rate cut from the current rate of $1.085.