Group urges SRO funding match from school district

Keep Our Douglas County Schools Safe advocates for more resource officers

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About 20 people gathered shortly before 7 a.m. at a Highlands Ranch restaurant, filling plates with eggs and sipping coffee as they settled in to hear from Republican Party leaders and invited speakers at a Highlands Ranch GOP Breakfast Club event.

Among the speakers May 31 was Parker resident Kory Nelson, chairman of the issue committee Keep Our Douglas County Schools Safe. He’d come to speak on a plan from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners to fund school resource officers and discuss other ideas from his committee to support more SROs.

Nelson’s wife is a teacher at Legacy Point Elementary School in Parker and his 15-year-old daughter is a student at Legend High School.

As recently as late April, his committee was advocating for voters to extend 0.13% of the county’s 1% sales tax expected to sunset in 2020. The money is currently dedicated to capital projects related to public safety. The hope was to convert the 0.13% to a school safety fund before it sunsets and extend it into perpetuity. Then, distribute the funds among law enforcement agencies to pay 100% of the cost for SROs. Since the late 1980s, schools and law enforcement agencies have split the cost of SROs in Douglas County roughly 50/50.

The committee’s focus has shifted slightly.

Following a May 7 shooting at STEM High School Highlands Ranch, county commissioners pledged $3 million toward funding dozens more SROs in the county. But the money is contingent on a 50% match from schools. The Douglas County School District’s board of education has said its budget for next year is set and a match can’t be easily found, if at all.

Nelson said his committee’s former proposal to put the 0.13% toward school safety remains an idea but the group’s focus is now on encouraging the school district to provide the $3 million match, which he believes DCSD can do.

“It’s about will and determination,” he said.

Douglas County Commissioner Abe Laydon said the board was encouraged to see Nelson’s committee support their plan.

“At this point, we’re very optimistic that the leaders in the community are going to come to the table to do the right thing by our citizens,” he said.

Not everyone at the GOP meeting was supportive of the committee’s proposal or commissioner’s offer of $3 million.

Franceen Thompson’s daughter was a senior at STEM during the May 7 tragedy and a friend to Kendrick Castillo, who was killed.

In regard to school security, she thinks all solutions should be on the table. Metal detectors, arming teachers if they are willing to carry, door alarms, improving school culture and funding SROs, to name some.

But Thompson said she doesn’t think county tax dollars should be put toward schools. The school district is its own taxing authority and county taxes would be better used on roads or mental health services for the entire community, she said.

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