After unsuccessfully lobbying for funds to put deputies in area schools, the Delaware County Sheriff's Office last week announced the officers would be in place this academic year.

After unsuccessfully lobbying for funds to put deputies in area schools, the Delaware County Sheriff's Office last week announced the officers would be in place this academic year.

Prior to this week's announcement, the sheriff's office assigned one deputy to serve as a resource officer for the 27 school buildings in the Big Walnut, Olentangy and Buckeye Valley districts.

Now, that deputy and two additional veterans of the sheriff's office will serve as SROs, with one being assigned to each of the three districts.

In 2008, the three school districts will pay a total of $40,590 -- or $13,530 each -- for the SROs. That amount will cover half the remaining 2008 salaries and benefits for those senior-level deputies.

The sheriff will use $40,590 previously earmarked in his 2008 budget for the senior deputies' pay to hire two new patrol deputies. The arrangement means less than $1,500 in additional sheriff's office funds will be needed this year to pay for the new deputies.

Because the schools have agreed to pay half of the SROs' combined $252,000 salaries and benefits in 2009, the sheriff's office will be able to offset all but $8,000 of the $134,000 the new deputies will receive next year.

In February, Sheriff Walter Davis III went to the Delaware County commissioners to ask for SRO funding.

After granting the sheriff's office $14.6-million for 2008 -- a 4 percent increase over the office's 2007 budget -- the commissioners repeatedly rejected Davis' request for additional funding for three SROs.

Davis said, "It would have been extremely difficult to do this if the schools wouldn't have been gracious enough to understand the need."

"School resource officers are an excellent way for law enforcement officers to reach out to students and develop long-term relationships of trust, respect and understanding," Davis said. "They're there to work with the school administrators and the students, and we're customizing each school resource officer's duties to meet the needs of the individual schools."

"We're very pleased that the sheriff has taken on this initiative," Big Walnut's Domine said. "We had them at one time, and we found them to be a great assist to forming relationships with children.

"Also, the presence of a school resource officer creates a deterrent (to criminal acts)."

SROs have been placed in schools throughout the nation frequently in recent years, driven primarily by high-profile violent acts in schools, including the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado that left 13 dead and 23 wounded.

The sheriff's office assigned two deputies to the three districts until May 2006, when former Sheriff Al Myers said his office was given insufficient funds to continue the program.

Last October, Delaware City Council authorized the assignment of an additional city police officer to the two Delaware middle schools. While Delaware City Schools pays $40,000 of that officer's $56,284 annual salary, the city fully funds the other SRO's $56,284 salary.

Westerville City Schools has seven officers for its 23 school buildings. There, a single SRO is assigned to each of the district's two high schools and five middle schools, and the city and schools share the $470,000 in associated costs.

Depending on the availability of funds, Davis said, he would like to add an alternate SRO so a trained deputy can replace or substitute for the current SROs.

"I don't know if I can take another person from patrolling the streets, so we hope we can continue to be supportive and partners with the school system here in Delaware County," he said.