Rutherford County is one step closer to adding school resource officers in every elementary school, but it may come with a price - a possible property tax rate increase.
Gary Redmon has lived in the Gum community of Rutherford County for 33 years, and today he handed over $1,518 to pay taxes on his two properties.
But he doesn't mind paying even more if it comes down to increasing the property tax rate to fund SROs in all elementary schools in the county.
"I wouldn't have a problem with it, if it's protecting the children," Redmon said.
Last night, the Rutherford County Budget and Finance Committee endorsed the concept of adding SROs in every elementary school.
But paying for the $1.2 million required to hire 11 SROs the first year - which would include benefits, training, patrol cars, and other equipment - may require a property tax rate increase. Two more SROs will have to be added for the new Stewarts Creek High School in Smyrna which is scheduled to open in the fall.
The current rate is about $2.4652 per $100 of assessed value. The additional SROs would require a 3-cent increase. For example, a homeowner with a $150,000 home could see an $11.25 increase in their annual property tax bill.
County mayor Ernest Burgess said leaders have dipped into the rainy day fund way too often, so that's not an option.
"We've had to do that for a period of time and at some point you get to a point where you can't do that," Burgess said. "We don't want to jeopardize our bond rating by drawing our reserves down below our policy limits. It's going to be another difficult budgeting year for us."
Murfreesboro resident James Martin has a family of educators. His daughter and a son-in-law are principals of schools in Rutherford County, and two granddaughters are teachers. He became worried about them after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
"I said it could have been some of my family, if it happened here it could have been some of my family," Martin said.
Channel 4 News also talked to a few other people who didn't want be identified who feel they've already been taxed enough. They said are in favor of adding SROs, but feel the county should look at other avenues to fund them.
Martin is just hoping the SROs are funded at any cost.
"I think it would be much better when people see the SROs and the sheriff's cars sitting out there it may make them turn away," Martin said.
The 21-member Rutherford County Commission will decide on whether to also endorse the concept of adding SROs and how to fund them at its meeting Thursday night.
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