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March 13, 2013

Vigo County Council approves special deputy funding

Will be used to staff county schools

TERRE HAUTE — In a unanimous 7-0 vote Tuesday, the Vigo County Council approved $135,000 to pay for special deputies to be assigned to 10 county schools.

The county will pay for the officers from two sources — $105,000 from the County Adjusted Gross Income Tax and $30,000 from the county prosecutor’s infraction deferral fund. The Vigo County School Corp. will match with $135,000 to fill out the total $270,000 needed for the special deputies.

The council’s chamber was filled with more than 70 school employees including several elementary school principals, some parents and the county’s school superintendent, each urging the council to support the funding.

“It is phenomenal when a community comes together to say this is the right thing to do, this is what will protect our children,” Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing said during a recess of the council meeting that allowed school employees to leave the council chambers after the council vote.

“We have taken a proactive role” to enhance security of children, the sheriff said. “It is a great moment. This is something we have worked on since the incident at Sandy Hook Elementary.”

The incident occurred Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 children and six adult staff where fatally shot at the Newton, Conn., elementary school.

The county’s action comes after the city of Terre Haute last month funded officers in 12 schools in the city limits that did not already have a police officer assigned. The $353,000 cost of those officers is being split between the city and school corporation.

The county will provide the funding as a grant, which the school corporation will apply for each year. That eliminates a need for any memorandum of understanding or interlocal agreement.

The county and school corporation agreed to 23 guidelines. Among those are that all school security officers will be employed by the Vigo County School Corp. and will be under the direct supervision of a school principal.

Each special deputy will be paid $19 per hour, with the school corporation withholding taxes and Social Security payments and providing a W-2 tax form. The special deputies will be considered part-time employees of the school corporation and may also work school athletic and special events, so long as total hours do not exceed 40 per week.

“At this time, there will be no other employee benefits; however the [school] corporation is currently researching if health insurance must be offered in 2014 for those officers working over 29 hours per week,” according to one of the guidelines. “This will be a school corporation issue and not [of] county government.”

School officers will be under the chain of command of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s department will manage the application, screening and background process of officers assigned to county schools.

However, the school corporation has the right to decline employment, reassign or remove any officers from its school security program. Officers will carry a school corporation radio while on duty. The county is “currently determining if any and what type of sheriff radios will be issued to school security officers that are special deputies,” according to the guidelines.

The security is to be provided from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and officers can split shift with other officers to cover those hours. A marked police car is to be parked in an obvious location at each county school on a daily basis.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com.

 

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