CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR)– The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors held a meeting on Jan. 23, to discuss the state of school resource officers in the Town of Christiansburg.

The board says it’s time to work together and have a sit-down conversation with the Christiansburg Town Council to see how they can move forward.

During a council meeting on Jan. 10, the board voted 4 to 3 in favor of cutting funding from the program beginning on July 1.

The council feels that since the schools are Montgomery County property, despite their location within Christiansburg town limits., they should be responsible for the program.

“Everybody here wants a resource officer in there, but we owe it to our citizens and fiscally, to be fiscal minded, to at least put this motion on the table,” said. Christiansburg Vice Mayor Henry Showalter said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

However, the board says a school should never be left unprotected.

Several board members explained they are opposed to paying for town officers in the schools, but they would consider covering the cost for deputies inside the schools.

“Each town has its own police department, therefore it has a squad that is assigned during the day and during the night. They are able to respond much more quickly. We can’t respond that quickly in the county because it is a lot more square miles to cover,” said Supervisor Steve Fijalkowski.

Chairwoman Sherr Blevins also shared her response regarding the council’s decision and got passionate as she addressed the issue.

“We all need to work together — the schools, the law enforcement, the parent — to keep our schools safe. Why I was so upset and shocked was that I fought to get school School Resource Officers in Falling Branch, and for Christiansburg to say if you do not reimburse the police department to serve and protect those kids, that they will pull those officers out,” said Blevins.

WFXR reached out to the Christiansburg Town Council, and received a statement:

“Christiansburg Town Council is responding to a Montgomery County vote that provides school resource officers for all County schools, except schools within Town of Christiansburg and Blacksburg limits.

As a result, on Jan. 10, Christiansburg Town Council passed a motion to end subsidy for school resource officer (SRO) positions. This allows Montgomery County the opportunity to provide SROs for town schools, as is now being done within the unincorporated portions of the County. Christiansburg Town Council had previously asked Montgomery County leaders to fund SROs within Town limits but was denied. The Town of Christiansburg has given the County roughly 6 months to plan and budget security for all of its town and county schools.

The Town preference is to keep Christiansburg police officers in the schools with cost reimbursement from the county, currently at $265,000. This cost covers the Town providing security through trained school resource officers. This would ensure Christiansburg Police the opportunity to maintain relationships with students and remain in schools within Town of Christiansburg boundaries.

“We believe it would be easier and more cost effective for the County to fund our trained officers rather than for the County to hire, train and equip new officers. We also believe it is in the best interest of the students to have Town officers in the schools as it would allow the relationships and trust that are already established to continue. Replacing Christiansburg officers with County SROs will take time to build rapport with students and staff,” says Mayor Mike Barber.

Christiansburg Town Council

The board responded to the council’s allegations that they denied them funding, saying during a September meeting last year, they sought out the advice of both town police chiefs and the county’s sheriff for direction on the matter.

“In our lane is making sure we got those schools, those children, those almost adults, those teachers and all their staff safe,” said Sheriff Hank Partin.

He stated that the Sheriff’s Office and the two town police departments do not see jurisdiction boundary lines when there is an emergency or need for law enforcement as they help each other. Chief Sisson also stressed how important SROs are in the schools and community. 

At the time, all board members agreed that SROs are an asset to have in every single school.

The county has $575,071 budgeted for 8 SROs and the starting salary and benefits package for one of these positions is $67,664 dollars.

The board also discussed the history of SROs in Montgomery County Public Schools since the 90s. That presentation can be viewed here.

Currently, Christiansburg schools have three SROs.

You can view the Christiansburg Town Council meeting here.

You can also view the board’s Sept. 26th, 2022 work session, where law enforcement spoke about School SROs.