The Marshall County Commission had a special called meeting on Thursday, Aug. 1, to discuss the proposed car tag fees. Chairman James Hutcheson said that the meeting was called because District 2 Commissioner Rick Watson requested it.
The meeting was for informational purposes only. They did not have a vote at the meeting, but they believe there was enough information provided that they should be able to vote on the matter at the next scheduled Commission meeting on Aug. 14. The work session will be at 9 a.m. and the official meeting at 10 a.m.
Hutcheson reminded everyone of the last meeting and the motion by District 4 Commissioner Joey Baker. He explained that Baker wanted the legislature, the Commission and the school district to contribute to the funds for school resource officers along with a $10 tag fee. Although it did receive a second, the motion failed after two abstaining votes and Baker's pulling of his motion.
The exemptions for the tag fees are 100 percent disability and 65 years and older.
Baker said that he should have spoken to the Marshall County School Board before he made the motion that they contribute to the school resource officers (SROs).
Hutcheson said he spoke with county school superintendent Cindy Wigley about contributing the money and the school system is having issues with their funds.
Wigley said that their budget is operated by state and federal guidelines, not just local wishes. All of their funds are either federal funds or state grants, both of which are earmarked for specific purposes. They have federally mandated requirements such as special education teachers, aides, bus drivers and services along with debt services from many years ago for upgrades to campuses.
The upgrades were done to take away the modular classrooms. They still have a few modularson their Douglas and Asbury campuses. She said that is just proof that they are not where they need to be with their buildings.
The Marshall County School Board does not have the money to provide additional funds towards the SROs, Wigley said.
"I want to be clear on our projects that we spent our money on these past three years," she said. "Not one penny come from additional tax payer dollars."
It was an energy savings project that built the football stadium in Asbury and added air conditioning to the gymnasiums along with 10 additional classrooms in Douglas to keep from having modular classrooms.
"I know there is confusion when we say we don't have it," she said. "But I think you would have to live under a rock if you have been in this county for the past 40 years. It started when the first city system pulled out."
When it started in the 1960s, she said that it was the elected officials' problem at the time and they did not fix it. Marshall County now has five school systems that the state has allowed them to have, Wigley said.
Wigley said that if anyone has questions about the school's budget, she will gladly speak with them over it.
She admitted to receiving money to help with safety, but the money is to be used on locks or security systems. It is not allowed to be used on personnel.
She said the county principals are putting out schedules and they do not even know if they will have the staff to fill the positions needed to offer some classes.
"You don't hear that from the city systems," Wigley said. "They have 20 and 30 extra teaching units, so they do not have to spend day and night on trying to figure out how to best use their federal dollars like we do."
The bottom line is that they do not have the money to contribute to the SRO funds, she said.
Hutcheson said that the next time they make a motion, he does not want it to be contingent on anything. He wants a firm motion. The legislative input is firm. Sen. Clay Scofield is committed to $30,000, Hutcheson said.
Kelley said that he seconded the motion at the last Commission meeting because he does not personally think they need to pass a high fee of $20 to $25. He does not want to put that burden on the citizens of Marshall County.
He wanted to reiterate that he is all for the SROs, but he thinks there are other resources that they can use without having to raise taxes.
Watson said that they are taking money away from the general fund and it has to be paid back. He does not want this to be drug out for a long time just to pay it back.
He does not want the fee to be a burden, but he understands that it will be a burden to some. He wants the Commission to get what they can with the least impact on the public.
Marshall County Sheriff Phil Sims has been talking about the vehicles the SROs will need. They are anticipating that they will cost roughly $380,000.
Sims said that they may find some better deals on vehicles. They are not going to be using the standard vehicles they use for patrol vehicles. These cars will not have the bars and other accessories that are used in a regular deputy's vehicle. It will be a standard type vehicle with a place for storage.
If the sheriff uses these vehicles or SROs for any reason other than a school related function, that money would come from the general fund and not the SRO money. The SRO money is specifically for SROs and their required training and equipment.
Hutcheson said that if the SRO is being used by the sheriff's department, they would use a different accounting code that would have the money pulled from the general fund and not the SRO money. These officers will not be used much outside of their school responsibilities, Sims said.
Hutcheson said that each year that he has been in office, they have supplied the sheriff's department with five to six new vehicles a year. After they get the new vehicles, the department would sell their older ones. They could use some of these vehicles for the SROs.
There are currently four vehicles assigned to the four part-time SROs at the schools right now. That means that the Commission does not have to buy 14, but ten. Sims said as long as they continue to run. These are the oldest ones in his fleet.
District 1 Commissioner Ronny Shumate said that he was a school resource officer so he understands the need more than most. The officers are needed at the school and do not have to paid what other officers are paid.
He stated that badges cost about $80 and they do not have to have the metal badges. They could have their badge embroidered on their shirts. They do not have to have uniforms like an officer at the actual department, he said.
"You've got to have them in the classroom. You've got to have a vehicle to store your extra equipment and you have to be able to go from point A to point B," Shumate said.
His main goal is to keep everyone in the community safe.
He spoke with Lee County, Mississippi, and he asked how they pay for the SROs there. He was told their officers are paid from money from DUI tickets, drug offenses and the court system that pays monthly. The school system pays for 75 percent of one SRO and 50 percent of another SRO. The school and the sheriff's department does everything else.
Shumate said he spoke with the Marshall County Board of Education about their budget. He asked the school how they were operating on the amount they had to use.
"They don't have a lot of money, we don't have a lot of money but we have to come together to work," he said. "The key is to keep the kids safe."
Shumate said that he is for the fee but he believes that it should be $15. He does not believe that they will have much of a surplus because of the costs continuing to go up over time.
Marshall County Attorney Clint Maze read the resolution that passed during the meeting. He read that all of the members voted for the exemptions for car tags fees applying to passenger vehicle tag types standard, distinctive tags and personal that are state exempt, over the age of 65 and 100 percent Social Security disabled.
One concern with the citizens is that they would be charged multiple times if they bought a new vehicle and transferred the tag. That is not the case, Probate Judge Andrea LeCroy stated. Using Albertville as an example, she stated that if it is a transfer and the fee has already been paid, the person would not be charged a second fee.
Maze said he believes that the fees should be set in place for January 1, 2020. The Commission agreed that they would start the fee, if they voted for it, on that date.
Right now, they are planning on keeping the four part-time SROs they have and staying the course that they have been doing for some time.