In early May, Douglas County announced it had located an available $10 million within its budget and intended to put it toward heightening school safety. By late May, that number was upped to $13.3 million and approved by commissioners in a unanimous vote on May 28 for school safety initiatives.
The original $10 million offer is set to come from county reserves, or general fund money from previous budgets that was not assigned or spent. The additional funds — an ongoing $3 million to support more SROs and $331,250 for a new community response team — will come from the general fund.
Commissioner Abe Laydon said the tax dollars are available because of careful budgeting in previous years.
“This money is not from raising taxes or charging fees to our citizens,” he said.
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The Douglas County Board of Commissioners recently rolled out a plan intended to enhance school security.
The $13.3 million plan, approved by commissioners May 28, is multi-pronged and includes both one-time and ongoing dollars.
Here’s a breakdown of the plan:
• It puts $10 million in one-time spending toward physical security and mental health programming in schools. The board on May 28 established two, nine-member committees that will recommend how to spend the $10 million. They are expected to return with recommendations in July.
Commissioners’ first task following their May 28 decision was appointing people to the committees. The mental health committee will comprise two school district representatives, one charter or private school representative, three members appointed by the county and three recommended by the county’s Mental Health Initiative.
The physical safety committee will comprise five members appointed by the board of commissioners, two recommended by the school board and two recommended by law enforcement.
The committees’ recommendations must be formally approved by the board of commissioners and they will disband once the $10 million is used.
• The plan allocates $331,250 in ongoing funds to place a community response team (CRT) focused on children in the school system. Douglas County already operates two CRTs, with plans to add a third this summer. One team already operates in Castle Rock and the other in unincorporated Douglas County. The Youth CRT would be the county’s fourth team and first directed solely at children and students.
The special law enforcement units partner an officer with a mental health clinician to handle calls with a mental health component. The teams help stabilize people experiencing a mental health crisis and connect them with resources, sometimes direct-admitting people from the field into care. The CRT’s overarching goal is to keep people in a mental health crisis out of jail and out of the emergency room.
In its first year, the CRTs came into contact with 499 people. They believe the teams diverted people from jail 53 times and from the emergency department 142 times.
• The plan pledges $3 million in ongoing funds to place 49 additional school resource officers (SROs) on county campuses, bringing the total up from 12 to 61. Douglas County Budget Director Martha Marshall said it would take three years to staff all 61 SROs.
The $3 million is contingent on a 50% match from schools in the county. The total annual cost is estimated at $6 million.
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