NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Additional officers are posted at every elementary school in New Hanover County as of Wednesday morning, and now local leaders are tasked with finding a way to pay them.
Sheriff Ed McMahon said the roughly two dozen officers, who volunteered to shift into the schools, are working on overtime pay. The sheriff, who is a former School Resource Officer, said he's able to cover the cost in his budget until county commissioners can agree on a payment plan.
Board Chairman Woody White said Wednesday that he expects the city of Wilmington, the three beach towns and the school board to help fund the short-term solution.
Working to that effect, School Board Chairman Don Hayes recently polled his fellow board members on the possibility of pitching in some money. He cited the board's fund balance of 8% and $3-$4 million in additional savings, and suggested $250,000 in support.
Board member Derrick Hickey, who made the erroneously marked ‘confidential' email public, responded with the notion that resource officers are a responsibility of the sheriff's office and county commissioners.
Hickey later clarified with WECT.com that he is not opposed to adding some funding to the effort in the short term, but he does not see the school system's budget as a source for a permanent plan.
"I believe it is time for the commissioners to demonstrate leadership and live up to their statutory responsibility to keep our children safe," he wrote in a statement.
A second email circulating among elected leaders shows that commissioners will not find support from Wilmington city council member Laura Padgett.
She told WECT.com Wednesday night that people living within city limits, and even folks living in the beach towns, pay their fair share for school security as county residents.
Padgett said she agrees with the importance of the security, but believes Wilmington families already pay enough.
"It shouldn't fall doubly, or even one and a half times, on city residents," she said.
Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, said he is open to discussions with county leaders. With close to 10 county schools located inside city lines, Saffo said he and his fellow leaders have an obligation to consider.
"I believe we have a part to play in that," he said. "How big? I don't know until we have a good overall assessment."
Details about plan are expected to be discussed at the county commissioners' Monday night meeting.
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