Tomball ISD trustees approved an amendment to its contract with Harris County on April 10 to add 16 more school resource officers at the start of the upcoming 2023-24 school year, an increase from the four officers the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable’s Office began providing March 20.

This contract amendment follows the termination of the district’s previous contract with the city of Tomball, which was effective in March, although the Tomball Police Department is continuing to provide 12 school resource officers through the end of the 2022-23 school year, Community Impact previously reported.

How we got here

According to previous reporting, the city claimed negotiations with TISD stalled in the fall of 2022 over providing more SROs after the district told the city that TISD did not want to pay for support staff for the SROs, which includes positions such as a commanding officer and a dispatcher. Unable to come to an agreement, TISD Board President Lee McLeod said in February the district was exploring options for security and safety.

Despite the contract termination in March with the city of Tomball—the entity providing SRO services since the early 2000s—TISD has 16 officers serving its 22 campuses through the end of the ongoing 2022-23 school year. This includes 12 Tomball Police Department officers and four officers from Precinct 4, TISD Chief Operating Officer Steven Gutierrez said in an emailed statement.

Four Precinct 4 officers were added to TISD campuses following approval by the Harris County Commissioners Court on Feb. 21 with TISD paying $247,677 for the officers, Community Impact reported. Gutierrez said funding is from the district’s general fund.

“The addition of Precinct 4 deputies allowed us to redirect resources to ensure all campuses have daily coverage and a visible presence by TPD and Precinct 4,” Gutierrez said in an April 6 statement.

Gutierrez said the new Precinct 4 officers are assigned across the district with a focus on elementary schools.

“One of our goals is to foster positive relationships among law enforcement, educators and youth and helping to promote a positive school climate,” Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman said in an April 4 release.

The contract with Precinct 4 goes through Harris County’s fiscal year end Sept. 30, according to Gutierrez.

Next steps

As such, the amended contract with Precinct 4 to add 16 additional officers has been approved by TISD trustees but will also come before Harris County commissioners for approval. This would add 16 Precinct 4 officers for August and September to start off the 2023-24 school year with a total of 20 SROs, Gutierrez said.

Contracts are approved annually by Harris County, and Gutierrez said TISD is planning to start off the next contract year with 20 officers from Precinct 4 as well. The next contract would span Oct. 1, 2023, to Sept. 30, 2024.

As the district adds officers—paying 100% of the cost for the first four Precinct 4 officers—Gutierrez said TISD has increased its safety and security expenditures in the last three years. He said TISD projects safety and security expenses to account for 1.43% of the entire district budget in the upcoming fiscal year, which is a 90% increase from last year and a 160% increase in safety and security expenses since 2019.

During an April 11 meeting, trustees also approved $502,000 for various contracts to purchase and install security cameras at:
  • Tomball High School;
  • Tomball Memorial High School;
  • Grand Lakes Junior High School;
  • Grand Oaks Elementary School;
  • Tomball Junior High School; and
  • Willow Wood Junior High School.
Although TISD and Precinct 4 are anticipating a 20-officer contract for the upcoming school year, TISD is continuing to explore the creation of its own police department, Gutierrez said.

“District administration and school board routinely reviews and assesses the needs of the district’s safety and security plans,” he said in a statement. “As we have expanded the number of SROs considerably over the last five years, we are doing our due diligence of exploring the creation of an ISD police department, which will include potential costs and operational implications.”