Dorchester Co. votes to keep tax funding for resource officers in place

Dorchester Co. votes to keep tax funding for resource officers in place

DORCHESTER COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Dorchester County Council continued the conversation Tuesday on whether the county's taxpayers should carry the cost of helping fund school resource officers for area schools. Some council members say it's a question of legality.

"There's a smoke screen on whether or not we want to fund SRO's," Councilman Larry Hargett said. "We do want to fund them. I'm very much in favor of them. I have grandchildren in district 2…but I don't like they way they are funded. I think it's possibly illegal."

Dorchester County Council voted July 2015, 4 to 2, to raise county residents' taxes to fund SRO's for Dorchester Districts two and four schools. According to an opinion given Tuesday night from the South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, the county is
prohibited from taxing residences for school operating purposes.

"Well if it's illegal, I don't see how they can change it," Joan Brown, Dorchester County resident said. "I'd like to see come directly from the school board."

Brown also wanted to see independent hires, separate from the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office or the local police departments to give students "consistency" on a daily basis.

Yet, some council members stood by their first vote saying the attorney general's opinion is indeed an opinion, rather than a court ruling. They said SRO's are not considered part of regular operating expenses for the districts, so aren't prohibited from taxation.

The council also voted to dismiss Hargett's motion to not fund resource officers in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

"We were faced with voting to keep our kids safe," Councilman Jay Byars said of the initial July vote. "I think we voted the right way to do that."

While some county council members said they'll address the topic again when working on next year's budget, some residents say the extra dollars are worth spending in the interim.

"I think the safety of the kids should be protected," Laverne Johnson, Dorchester County resident, said. "I feel comfortable putting my money towards that."
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