Richland County

County Council approves $800,000 to add officers to Richland 1 schools

tflach@thestate.comJune 19, 2013 

Richland 1 will put a law enforcement officer in each elementary school after county leaders agreed Wednesday to help pay for the step.

County Council agreed to chip in $800,000 from savings to add 14 more officers so all classrooms have extra security during the academic year that starts this fall.

Sheriff Leon Lott and others Midlands police officials recommended the move as a safeguard.

“No one wants to take that chance” of leaving the youngest students unprotected, councilman Norman Jackson, a Lower Richland Democrat, said.

The proposal was approved 10-1 even though it was a last-minute request before the county spending plan for the year starting July 1 was approved.

School officials belatedly recognized that some money initially set aside to pay for more officers is needed to cover cuts in federal aid affecting instruction, superintendent Percy Mack said.

Without the county aid, 14 schools would have lacked officers, he said.

The county assistance is continuing “the partnership we’ve always had” in splitting equally the tab for school security, he said.

Richland 1 is the second Midlands school district to add officers full-time at all its elementary schools in the Columbia area.

But it is doing it without a tax increase.

Lexington-Richland 5 is raising taxes on businesses to pay for the step for its classrooms in the Chapin, Dutch Fork, Harbison, Irmo and St. Andrews areas.

Councilman Bill Malinowksi, a Chapin Republican, suggested concern about assaults on elementary schools are overblown.

The officers are necessary in area middle and high schools to help maintain discipline, he said.

Adding them at the elementary level is “a feel-good thing,” Malinowski said.

Parents increasingly want more safety in classrooms, Mack said.

The price tag will rise sharply as Richland 2 and Lexington-Richland 5 seek to match the help given Richland 1, Malinowski predicted.

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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