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Beaufort County Schools approves SRO services contract with Allied Universal

The Beaufort County Schools Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved Allied Universal as its third-party contractor for school resource officer services.

Allied Universal officers will assume those duties in August. The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office will continue to provide SRO services until the fiscal year ends in June.

BCS is the first public school system in North Carolina to contract with a third-party police company. Some other public school entities have similar arrangements, but the police forces are employed by their respective school systems in those cases. Beaufort County’s SROs will be employees of Allied Universal, not BCS.

“I would say, no questions asked, that the county will be setting a precedent but also a standard across North Carolina, being the first to do this,” said Frank Spano, director of education security services at Allied Universal.

The total annual cost of the three-year contract with Allied Universal is $1,037,374.27. Allied Universal will provide 13 officers, including 12 who will serve as SROs at most of the district’s schools, the exceptions being the Ed Tech Center, which is located on Southside High School’s campus, and Beaufort County Early College High School. The remaining officer will serve as chief supervisor.

All of the SROs will be duly sworn law enforcement officers under state law, and they will have power of arrest on the campuses they serve.

The school system will also have a monthly payment of $14,300 — which equates to $171,600 annually, or $514,800 over three years — to cover the costs of the 13 vehicles that the SROs will use. That cost includes payments for the lease, insurance, maintenance and fuel of each vehicle.

The vehicle prices provided are based on a 40-month lease. If the school board chooses not to extend its contract with Allied Universal beyond 36 months, the school system will need to pay the balance of the lease cost.

BCS ended up saving money on vehicle costs while negotiating with Allied Universal. A preliminary contract shared by the school system listed the total vehicle price at $218,000. Recognizing that the vehicles won’t be heavily used given the nature of SRO duties, Allied Universal agreed to look at less expensive options. The new price tag saves the school system $46,400 per year or $139,200 over a three-year period.

The total cost of the contract includes wages, payroll taxes, insurances, training costs, vacation pay, healthcare, firearms and other equipment, HELIAUS devices and software, overhead and profit. The chief supervisor — who is referred to in the contract as the account manager SRO — will be paid an hourly wage of $30 by Allied Universal; the bill rate BCS will pay for that position is $39.16 per hour. The hourly rate for the other 12 SROs is $24.00, and the bill rate is $31.33 per hour. The overtime wage for those 12 officers is $46.99; the account manager SRO is exempt from overtime pay.

The search for a school security contractor began shortly after Sheriff Ernie Coleman in late 2020 announced his intention to terminate within 90 days the memorandum of understanding between his office and the school system. Coleman claimed that the county commissioners “defunded” the Sheriff’s Office by freezing five of its positions during the budget process for the current fiscal year. Those five positions had to be left empty in order for the Sheriff’s Office to bring a flat budget to the commissioners. Funds for those five positions were frozen as part of a partial hiring freeze that the county implemented due to economic uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfreezing those funds would require approval from the commissioners.

In several press releases published since then, Coleman said that the loss of those five positions strained his office’s operations. He said he terminated the memorandum so that deputies serving as SROs could be pulled temporarily from their school posts in order to assist with other law enforcement tasks as needed.

TIMELINE

Allied Universal is currently advertising the 13 positions. The start date for those officers is Aug. 15. The first day of school for the 2021-22 academic year is Aug. 23, so the new SROs will have about a week for on-campus training before students arrive.

Allied Universal Security Services Chief of Police Rob Qualkenbush said the company has already received six applications for the BCS positions. He said Allied Universal is confident that it’ll have 13 officers ready to go by Aug. 15.