Voters will decide ballot proposal to fund school resource and STING officers
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
With a lot of unknowns projected for budgets for governmental and education entities in the future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, area leaders are putting the decision to fund two law enforcement positions squarely in the hands of voters.
The Crawford County Board of Commissioners, through a virtual meeting held on Wednesday, June 10, agreed to put a millage proposal on the November 3 general election ballot for the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office.
The county is seeking to ask for the limitation upon the total amount of general ad valorem taxes imposed on real and tangible personal property to be increased by 0.4500, or 45 cents on each $1,000 of taxable value for a period of five years, 2020 to 2024.
The purpose of the ballot proposal is paying for the costs of maintaining and equipping a deputy to serve as a school resource officer in the Crawford AuSable School District schools as well as a deputy assigned to the Strike Team Investigative Narcotics Group (STING) unit.
The amount of revenue the county could collect, if the millage is approved by voters, in the first year is estimated to be $261,869.
Last year, after a seven-year absence, a local police officer was placed back on the local undercover drug enforcement team to combat the opioid epidemic and stem the flow of illicit drugs coming into the area.
The Grayling Department of Public Safety and the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office agreed to split the cost.
Due to coronavirus, a highly contagious and sometimes deadly respiratory disease, the City of Grayling has been forced to pull out of the agreement due to current and pending budget cuts.
“They can’t afford to be part of it,” said Crawford County Sheriff Shawn M. Kraycs.
The Grayling Department of Public Safety has laid off one officer and the rest of the officer are working on a furloughed work schedule.
Kraycs and Crawford County Administrator Paul Compo planned the ballot proposal in hopes of keeping county school resource officer and STING officer on the pay roll.
The drug epidemic continues to plague the county, especially with rise in use of methamphetamines, a high addictive stimulant.
Kraycs said the sheriff’s office has fielded a number of complaints from concerned parents, who are finding drug paraphernalia in their neighborhoods.
“We’re picking up needles all the time in subdivisions because kids are out on the streets,” Kraycs said. “It’s a scary day.”
Local leaders don’t want to lose the deputy on the STING team after having its resources in the county for the last year. STING, which covers Arenac, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Oscoda, and Roscommon Counties, includes officers from local police departments, sheriff’s deputies, and Michigan State Police.
Kraycs said the sheriff’s office has had a school resource officer since 1997, when he first held the position.
The position is funded by the county and school district.
“The school position is always one that teeters when there are budget issues,” Kraycs said.
Kraycs said having the resource officer helps the schools, parents, and the community as they are part of the daily lives of students and offer an extra level of security and discipline.
“They create a connection and longtime relationships that follow you for years,” Kraycs said.
The school resource officer and STING officer are two of the most important positions for the sheriff’s office, but are always the first ones to face cuts when there are budget woes.
Support of the ballot proposal would earmark fluid funding for the positions in future years.
“It’s something that the community can have a total say over and ensure those two positions aren’t on the chopping block every year when there are budget issues,” Kraycs said.
The uncertainty for the county, city, and school district’s budgets is created since it is unknown what revenue sharing will be coming from the state. They are anticipating less revenue sharing because people were buying less gas and buying fewer items at a six percent sales tax due to the pandemic and stay-at-home orders.
“It’s hard to say what is going to happen,” Kraycs said.
Kraycs said that there is no way the county can fund the two officers, adding that the STING officer would be the first to go before they would pull the officer out of the schools.
“I know it’s a tough time to ask people for money, but this is an investment in our community when it comes to our kids and I think it’s important to ensure it’s going to be available for a minimum of five years,” Kraycs said.