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Jurisdiction troubles school resource officer search in Spicewood

Spicewood Elementary School

Spicewood Elementary School is in need of a school resource officer, but because it is located in an unincorporated area of Burnet County, officials are discussing how to handle jurisdiction. File photo

Spicewood Elementary School wants a school resource officer, but, because of its location, that person would have to be a Burnet County sheriff’s deputy and take a pay cut to do the job, Sheriff Calvin Boyd told the Commissioners Court during its regular meeting Jan. 24.

An SRO is stationed at a specific school and responsible for patrolling, protecting, and maintaining the campus’ security.

Boyd and the commissioners took no action on providing a school resource officer for Spicewood Elementary during the meeting because the Marble Falls Independent School District has not yet submitted exact terms for the position. Commissioners’ concerns and discussions centered on salary and who was technically responsible for providing an SRO in Spicewood.

“There needs to be coverage out there,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Don Dockery said. “It’s in my precinct and it gets lost in the shuffle. I would love to have an officer out there, but I don’t want to take any action until we see an agreement and see exactly what the obligations are.”

Spicewood Elementary School, 1005 Spur 191, lies within an unincorporated area of Burnet County, meaning it is technically in the Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction, unlike the other MFISD campuses, all of which are in the city limits of Marble Falls or Granite Shoals. Marble Falls schools contract with Marble Falls police officers for their school resource officers. Highland Lakes Elementary School in Granite Shoals recently contracted with the Granite Shoals Police Department for a full-time SRO.

MFISD officials had asked if the cost of a deputy could be brought down after learning the salary difference between a Marble Falls police officer and a Burnet County sheriff’s deputy, Boyd said. It would cost the district $74,000 to hire a deputy with pay, vehicle, and benefits versus $51,000 for a Marble Falls Police Department officer.

The standard pay structure for an SRO is a 75-25 pay-percentage split. Since the officer spends nine months of the year at the school, the district covers 75 percent of the officer’s salary and the agency covers 25 percent when the officer returns to regular duty for the remaining three months of the year. 

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to reach an agreement because we can’t cut somebody’s pay to send them out there,” Boyd told the Commissioners Court.

Burnet County Judge James Oakley posed the possibility of MFPD sending an officer to Spicewood since the school is in the Marble Falls school district.

“Burnet County Sheriff’s (Office) is the jurisdiction within which Spicewood Elementary resides, and the infrastructure is very different than that of a city (police department),” MFISD Communications Specialist Megan Hamilton said in an email to “Conversations are ongoing regarding an SRO being placed at Spicewood.”