Last Modified: Friday, May 03, 2013 11:04 AM
OBERLIN — Allen Parish voters will decide Saturday whether they want to increase property taxes to help beef up school security by adding armed resource officers to all parish schools.
The 10-year, 7.5-mill property tax will generate $630,000 a year to hire, train and equip 11 full-time officers, said Sheriff Doug Hebert III.
“I know it is unfair to property owners and nobody likes taxes, but I know it is the right thing to do,” Hebert said. “I hope that the majority of the people feel the same. I know a lot of parents, grandparents and teachers want the kids to feel safe in the classroom.”
The officers will be required to attend the police academy, be DARE certified and be trained in use of firearms. They will also be required to undergo extensive background and criminal history checks, complete yearly training and be evaluated annually by principals.
Portions of the funds would be used to improve school safety, including installing surveillance cameras, electronic doors and alarms.
“This is an extremely important issue because the program wouldn’t happen without it,” Hebert said. He said the Sheriff’s Office and School Board have no funding to pay for the program because most funds are dedicated.
“Our goal is to get these kids protected without having to depend on someone else to provide the program,” Hebert said. “I view it as my responsibility, but my problem was how to get the program done and go about educating the kids. I wasn’t prepared to wait or hold out for other options.”
Under the measure, owners of property assessed at $150,000 would pay $40-$50 a year. Those with property valued under $75,000 are covered by the state’s homestead exemption and would pay nothing.
“I really believe that this program may be the single most important impact law enforcement can have on our kids and their future,” Hebert said. “But it’s far beyond the security aspect.”
The officers will help expand the DARE program to all grade levels and implement junior deputy programs in the schools. They will also help deter crime, counsel students and act as a mentors.
“It is extremely important to be ahead of the curve and be able to teach the students before they become a problem and to direct them down the right path,” he said.
If the proposal is approved by voters, the officers could begin work on campuses in by the fall of 2014 after completing training and certification.