School Board and Citizens in Henry County Fight to Keep NJROTC

By: Rhiana Huckins Email
By: Rhiana Huckins Email

Parents of cadets in the NJ-ROTC program in Henry County held a meeting Monday night in Headland, concerned they may lose the program.

It isn't expected to be scrapped completely, but it is in dire need of additional funding.

Last week, Henry County Superintendent Dennis Coe was crunching numbers to get an exact total of what it takes to run the program for one year.

Monday night, it was presented; the grand total being $421,611 dollars.

Jerrilyn Evans, a mother of a student in NJ-ROTC said, "My son gave up running the streets and getting in trouble to stay in ROTC, so I say as parents, we need to step up to the plate to fight for this ROTC program."

An NJ-ROTC student said Monday, "I learned leadership, patriotism; ROTC is all I have."

They spoke their mind for the good of their case. ROTC is a valued program in the Henry County school system, but the budget is stretched thin.

"Everything has gone up and that means as our prices rise, we have less local funds to support extra things," Superintendent Coe said.

If the governor's budget is approved, the Henry County school system will lose another $269,000 dollars.

The total amount of money being spent on salaries alone for the ROTC program is more than $400,000 dollars.

Compare that to Houston County's ROTC program. There are only two instructors, but the program costs less than half of Henry County’s.

These numbers do include benefits and the Navy is paying a portion of the salaries.

However, the Navy isn't paying for fringe benefits or state raises.

"We're approaching the crossroads. If we're going to have these extra things, than we are going to have to step up to the plate," Superintendent Coe added.

There were some ideas to gain extra funds.

One suggestion was to raise property taxes by 5 mils.

Some residents believe that would work.

Retired Major General Roger Peterson of the United States Air Force said, "It appears to me that the citizens of Henry County would be willing to pay $50 to $100 dollars more to help support the ROTC program."

And, if the board and ROTC supporters decide on pursuing a tax increase, they need to take action within the next two weeks.

They will need the signatures of 200 Henry County residents before it could be seen on the ballot.

The only way the program would get cut is if it came down to ROTC or a core academic program, and if both the Navy and school board agreed on it.

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