After meeting with the four school districts in Clay County, Sheriff Kenny Lemons provided an update to commissioners on plans to begin a school resource officer program.
But Lemons’ plan could be rendered unnecessary by Texas Lawmakers. A bill authored by State Senators Tommy Williams of The Woodlands and John Whitmire of Houston, and State Rep. Dan Huberty of Humble would create additional tax revenues for school districts.
Lemons presented his findings to commissioners during a regular meeting Monday, Jan. 28.
Over a period of two weeks, Lemons has met with school boards across the county in an attempt to sell the program. The program calls for one deputy to service all four districts, a total of six campuses.
“The proposal of placing a dedicated, uniformed officer in our schools was for the most part felt to be a good idea. Most who agreed with a deputy in our schools wanted a deputy in each school every day,” said Lemons in a letter addressed to commissioners. “I explained, and most agreed that the program that the program I proposing, if it is to be able to last, must start slow.”
Revenue created through the proposed Texas School District Security Act, announced Tuesday, Jan. 22, would be limited to security measures taken on school campuses, such as surveillance cameras and enhanced screening equipment. Tax revenues could also be used to fund law enforcement officers or armed guards on campuses.
The revenue could come in the form of a sales tax or property tax, as stated in a press release from Williams. The bill, as proposed would also require that the special tax be renewed by voters in the district every five years.
“Voters in school districts across Texas ought to be able to decide for themselves if they want to dedicate some funds — that are accountable and transparent — to enhance the protection of our school children and our schools,” said Williams.
Jeff Nelson, legislative aide to Wilson, said the bill will be filed late this week or early next week.
Commissioners took no action on Lemons request to create a committee to meet with school representatives, and will wait until the Texas School District Security Act is filed in the 83rd Legislature.
“I’ve talked to different school principals and each district has different scenarios concerning their campuses,” said Precinct 2 Commissioner Johnny Gee.
The act is designed to allow districts to approach safety concerns in a manner that best serves the school.
Lemons is asking school districts to foot the bill for an additional deputy at an estimated cost of $57,000. Lemons first approached Commissioners with the plan during a Jan. 14, one month after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn. In his presentation, Lemons suggested the cost be split among the four districts and the county.
The sheriff said he would like to see his plan in place with the start of the next school year.