Knox County Sheriff "JJ" Jones told 10News on Tuesday that he will not request funding later this spring for additional deputies who would be assigned to Knox County Schools. This comes less than 24-hours after Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre told the Board of Education that does plan to include money to hire more officers as KCS employees in his budget proposal for the 2014 fiscal year.
"We notified Chris Caldwell this morning that we would be rescinding our request for those 20 officers," Sheriff Jones said.
Back in January, at the state-wide School Security Summit held near Nashville, Sheriff Jones said he planned to ask for $2,500,000 to hire 20 new deputies for schools. Those new officers would have contributed to McIntyre's goal of putting an armed officer in every school by September 2013.
That effort is part of McIntyre's school safety plan, which he has released few details about so far. It does, however, also include, installing up-to-date video surveillance systems and access controlled doors at every school.
McIntyre has been under fire over school security since discrepancies in security work at two schools came to light in early February.
Sheriff Jones and Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch have both publicly voiced their support of McIntyre's plan, especially making sure every school is assigned an armed officer.
Chief Rausch said in January that in order for his department to help put an officer in every school within the Knoxville city limits, he would need to hire 25 new officers. However, he told 10News he wasn't convinced that number was needed. He said, "I think I can do it with five," though he never confirmed that he planned to request funding from the city to pay for those officers.
On Monday, McIntyre confirmed to the BOE that he planned to ask the county for funding for 58 new officers. He said they would be Knox County Schools employee, adding to the 45 armed officers the district already employs. The price tag for those officers, Dr. McIntyre said, is $1,900,000.
"That includes their hiring, their training, their equipment," McIntyre explained.
The superintendent wants to start hiring new officers before July 1, 2013, and said he is looking in to asking the county for money now to get that process started.
"Having some resources in the current fiscal year, in order to give us a jump start on next year, i think would be valuable and helpful," McIntyre said.
In addition to the 45 security officers currently employed by KCS, KPD provides 17 officers, and the Sheriff's Office provides 24 deputies. Most of those resources are assigned to middle and high schools, leaving elementary schools largely unmanned. If KCS hires 58 more security officers, there would be 144 officers assigned to 88 schools. McIntyre said some schools would likely have more than one officer assigned to it.
While protecting schools means an armed officer on sight, Sheriff Jones said the level of communication that comes with those officers is equally as important as them carrying firearms.
"I think that we have to have someone at the school that is able to communicate county-wide to a dispatch system where we can, if an incident occurs, where we can send some help immediately," Sheriff Jones explained.
He also said having the officers hired by the school district saves money; they are on 10 month contracts and are paid less.
"These officers are not as trained as post certified police officers or like the city officers or sheriff's officers, but they receive training from both the city and the county," said Sheriff Jones.
KPD and the sheriff's office tell 10News they will continue to provide training to KCS security officers, including any new hires.
McIntyre's proposal will hire 38 more officers than Sheriff Jones had said he wanted to hire. It will also cost $600,000 less than the sheriff's request, if the county funds it. McIntyre and Sheriff Jones both said saving money is a concern, although protecting students and teachers remains the top priority.
Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett agrees with putting an armed officer in every school, and about protecting those who spend the majority of their days inside of a school building. However, he said he will weigh McIntyre's request carefully at budget time.
"If the sheriff needed 20 and the superintendent needed 58, i think we need to put our heads together and decide how many we actually need and quit playing these games," Mayor Burchett said.
He cited the district's $404,000,000 budget, which has to be maintained at that level annually, as a factor in his decision.
"You think they could find a little under two million dollars in their budget. The school system needs to learn to be responsible with their money," Mayor Burchett explained.
McIntyre will submit his proposed budget to the Knox County Commission later this spring.
Knox County Schools is holding a school system budget forum on Thursday, March 7, 2013. It starts at 6 p.m. at Fulton High School.