By Paige Nash
At the Bienville Parish School Board’s (BPSB) regular November meeting held last Thursday, November 2, some disapproving comments were made regarding the proposed School Resource Officer cooperative endeavor agreement with the Bienville Parish Sheriff’s Office (BPSO).
In the proposal, Sheriff John Ballance asked the school board to pay an annual sum of $400,000 “for its proportionate share of all reimbursable costs for SRO training, equipment, vehicles and its replacement, and its proportionate share of the annual prorated salary, health insurance premiums and retirement benefits paid to all deputies selected to serve as SROs pursuant to this agreement.”
According to Ballance, the board currently pays $218,000 on an annual basis.
“I think some of the board members are under the misconception that we are asking for salary only,” said Ballance. “It is for vehicles, equipment, body cameras, bulletproof vests and way more that they aren’t seeing. They are only seeing one thing and thinking it is salary only. It is for the overall cost for the SROs to be at the school.”
Under the current contract between the board and sheriff’s office the money is distributed between six POST- certified deputies with specialized training to be school resource officers.
Ballance says it will now cover seven in total. Sergeant Bently Williams has been hired to oversee all SROs stationed at a school in the parish. He is also a DARE teacher and fills in at any of the schools when the designated SRO cannot be there.
Board President Martha Grigg made her opinion clear that $400,000 is “too much.” She said that would put them paying a total of roughly $66,000 in salary to the deputies. The board pays roughly $36,333 per deputy per year.
But according to Sheriff Ballance, Grigg was not figuring in the additional deputy, Williams, and if they approved the amount of $400,000, that would have each deputy making approximately $62,000 per year.
“That’s too much. I’d be willing to go $40,000 tops,” said Grigg, adding she’d would support up to a total of $240,000 per year.
Figures provided by the BPSO reflecting the amount paid this year by their office show that their office has paid a total of $833,997.34 for the seven SROs. This figure includes salary, benefits, vehicle equipment, SRO equipment and vehicle leasing for the SRO fleet.
Ultimately the board voted to defer discussions of the contract until they have had more time to review and will revisit at the December monthly meeting. Sheriff Ballance said he will be in attendance to go over the contract with the board and to answer any questions that may arise.
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