Lexington County schools soon will bear the bulk of the cost of deputies who safeguard students.
An agreement taking shape will require schools to pay 75 percent of the $2.6 million cost for three dozen school resource officers starting next fall, replacing the current 50-50 split, officials said Tuesday.
“That’s the direction we’re headed,” County Administrator Joe Mergo told County Council members.
The change comes after council members complained protection of classrooms has become virtually a full-time assignment.
It prevents those deputies from helping to meet increasing demands to patrol neighborhoods scattered across the 758-square-mile county, Councilman Todd Cullum of Cayce said.
Deputies are stationed at half of the 69 schools in the county, mostly at middle and high schools.
The change is the first in a series of steps being looked at to put more deputies on the road amid a county financial crunch.
“We’re seeing what we can shift around,” said Sheriff Jay Koon, who took office in April. “You have to keep up with growth.”
It’s too soon to say if the extra $650,00 coming from schools will be devoted solely to additional deputies.
Some of it could be used to add jail guards as well, Koon said.
The gain from the change for school resource officers is enough to add five deputies or 10 jail guards.
Currently, there are about 275 deputies and 100 jail guards.
Koon’s predecessor suggested adding 80 deputies and 60 jail guards in stages over the next decade.
By some estimates, that’s a $13 million plan that would increase county spending on law enforcement by nearly a third.
“We need to looking at other ways to accomplish that (extra deputies and jail guards),” Cullum said. “Our revenue isn’t growing fast.”
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483