LAFAYETTE — Budget constraints have ended a program in which sheriff’s deputies served as school resource officers in Iberia Parish public schools.
The school system had been paying $60,000 a year to help cover the cost of placing five Iberia Parish sheriff’s deputies at three high schools and some middle schools, Superintendent Dale Henderson said.
But during contract negotiations for this school year, the Sheriff’s Office asked to more than double the fee to $130,000 annually for the service, Henderson said. Such a large increase wasn’t feasible for the school district’s budget.
The Sheriff’s Office rejected the school system’s counter offer to maintain the fee at $60,000 and assign deputies only to New Iberia Senior High, Westgate and Anderson middle schools, Henderson said.
Sheriff’s Capt. Ryan Turner said the fee increase sought by his agency was needed to cover at least half of the cost of the school resource officer program.
“We’re only asking them to pay half or a portion of what it’s costing us to provide that security,” Turner said.
He estimated the total cost to the Sheriff’s Office at about $260,000, an amount that includes salary, benefits, and officer equipment.
The school district’s reduction in service request was denied because “we’re not going to let the School Board dictate how we provide security or logistics to the schools,” Turner said.
Henderson said the school system would like to continue having deputies patrol schools, so it would attempt to reopen negotiations with the Sheriff’s Office.
He said he did not view the stalled contract negotiations as a “conflict” with the Sheriff’s Office.
“There are no ill feelings and no conflict between the school system and the Sheriff’s Office,” Henderson said. “I have the greatest respect for the sheriff and we look forward to a good working relationship with or without school resource officers.”
Turner said deputies would continue to respond to incidents reported at the schools, just as they would for other calls for assistance.
But so far this school year, there have been no major incidents requiring the presence of deputies, Turner said.
“We need security,” School Board member Raymond Lewis said, referring to a recent shooting incident at Opelousas Junior High School. “We need a deterrent to bad behavior or possibly crime.”
Lewis said he’d support raising the school resource officer fee, but not the full $130,000 a year sought by the Sheriff’s Office.