MORGAN -- Tough economic times have forced Morgan city officials to cut funding for one police officer and reduce funding for a school resource officer.
"We're doing everything we can to save money," said Mayor Jim Egbert.
City officials have debated how to deal with a $300,000 budgetary shortfall caused by decreased revenues from sales tax, property tax and impact fees.
In the past, the Morgan County Sheriff's Office has dedicated two deputies to patrolling within city limits. Now, the city has reduced coverage to one dedicated officer, saving $45,000 for the rest of its budget year that ends in June.
Under its contract with the county, one officer's salary and benefits cost the city $110,000 annually.
City officials have asked the sheriff to strategically schedule the one officer's patrol time. For example, the city would like a police presence on winter mornings when children arrive at school.
"We're cutting the designated amount in half," said Councilwoman Shelly Betz.
"This has nothing to do with the service provided by the sheriff's department. It was exemplary. This is strictly a budgetary issue."
The cuts don't stop there.
The city has given notice that it will no longer help fund a school resource officer.
"After much research and discussion, it was found that normally the school resource officer is an additional service paid for by the school district and the law enforcement entity that provides the services," Betz said.
"It is very rare that a city participates in the costs of the school resource officer."
Historically, Morgan County, Morgan School District and Morgan city have cooperated in funding the $75,000 in salary and benefits for the school resource officer.
Cutting funding for the school resource officer will save the city $9,000 this fiscal year.
But Morgan County and Morgan School District officials are trying to perpetuate funding for the resource officer position.
"It's the opinion of (district) administrators that the school resource officer is one of the most critical positions in the district," said Superintendent Ken Adams.
"We feel it is an outstanding model of community policing. We don't see how we can manage without it."
Adams said that when school is in session, a quarter of the county's total population is gathered in one concentrated area within the city.
At a recent school board meeting, district officials agreed to pay an extra $9,000 -- on top of the $11,000 the district initially agreed to pay -- to keep an officer in the high school through the end of the school year.
At that point, Adams hopes to renegotiate the contract with the city.
Under district safe-school policies, he said, a law enforcement presence in the schools is crucial.
"It's not your father's high school. The best time to deal with (some) issues is when it is fresh and still on school grounds," Adams said. "If you have to leave it there, you may lose evidence."
Others want the police presence for its preventive nature.
"Knowing there's an officer in the building seems to make a difference," said D'Lynn Poll, district business administrator.
"We're unhappy about (the city's decision), but we're going to continue funding (the officer position)."