During a June 5 city budget workshop, Dr. Russ Brock, R-2 School District superintendent, and his replacement for the coming school year, Dr. Chuck Garner, both met with Owensville aldermen to discuss what they called a “cooperative employment” agreement.
“I can tell you,” Brock told the aldermen and Mayor Dixon Somerville, “the school board is committed to this for multiple years. They are already seeing the value Matt Peters has provided the district.”
Discussion on the SRO proposal comes as workers from the Lawson, Mo., firm Midwest Digital began this week installing entryway security camera and door buzzer systems at each of the school districts four buildings. Staff will have desktop viewing monitors connected to surveillance cameras mounted at the main entrances to each building. Visitors will present themselves and be buzzed in by school staff.
Cost of the security system is $30,395. Midwest Digital was awarded the low-bid to specifications contract in February. Work was expected to be completed within the next week. The system includes keyless entry points for staff from designated parking areas. Staff moving students to playgrounds or physical education fields, along with the vo-ag building at the high school, will also have designated entry points accessible by their swipe cards.
Under the proposal, which still requires formal approval from each of two boards, three-fourths of the police officer’s salary — most likely for patrolman Matt Peters since he has been certified as an SRO officer — would be paid for by the school district. That officer would remain a city employee and receive retirement benefits through LAGERS and health insurance from the city. Liability insurance while on school grounds would be covered by the school district.
Brock told city officials any officer hired for an SRO position would POST certified through their position with the city. An agreement between the school district and the city for the SRO position would be subject to an annual review, Brock told Ward 1 Alderman Bobbie Berger.
Garner told aldermen that in two previous school districts where he’s worked the SRO remains a city employee and the school district reimburses the municipality.
“They invoice and we reimburse,” said Garner of his experiences with an SRO cost-share program in Bolivar and Independence.
An SRO would arrange the schedule during the school year to be on campus as requested by school personnel. If school officials wanted an SRO on site during evening sporting events or parent-teacher conferences, the schedule would be set for a later start time.
Garner told R-2 board members on Monday that the SRO would primarily work out of the middle and high schools.
Garner was asked if this person would be stationed in Gerald Elementary School.
No, Garner told R-2 board member Debbie Landolt. And, the officer would not work out of the elementary school in Owensville either.
“It is a resource officer building relationships at the middle school and the high school,” said Garner who takes over for Brock as superintendent as of July 1. Brock is retiring from the education field.
The SRO would be assigned to the upper levels of schools to “develop relationships” with students seeking direction in their lives with teen issues, the board was reminded.
Garner asked if there was a “misunderstanding about the relationship of what this position is.”
Landolt, along with recently elected board member Tony Alvarez, both expressed concern about how this potential agreement would look related to the Gerald Police Department’s work in the Gerald school. Both noted the work Gerald Chief Tommie Lowe does at the school.
Lowe was recognized by the R-2 board in May for “his ongoing assistance in supervising our Gerald school and making it more safe and secure for our students,” noted the agenda for scheduled certificate presentations.
Brock reminded the board the district was not hiring an SRO, rather they would be reimbursing the city for services the board had expressed interest in having.
Alvarez asked if administrators would be talking with city of Gerald officials about Gerald police participation in the Gerald building. He posed the question of whether this was an issue of a volunteer position in one community versus a paid position in another. Garner noted this was a “collaboration” between the school district and the city of Owensville “because its a shared position.”
Garner also noted the emphasis of having a SRO staffing the upper-level buildings means services are being directed to students from every community in the district.
R-2 directors will continue their discussion when they meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday,. June 24. Since it appears tax receipt figures from Franklin County will not be available until sometime in July, the board will likely adopt its current budget and amend it next month to reflect projected income figures for the 2013-14 school year once those are defined more clearly.
In Brock’s budget report to the board in May, which was reintroduced Monday, he cited projected costs of $33,400 to fund an SRO position including the district’s cost for liability coverage.
In discussion with Owensville aldermen last Wednesday, a common figure mentioned to employ an officer with insurance was in the $41,000 range with benefits and noted a $31,000 figure as three-fourths of the cost when divided. City Administrator John Tracy has been preparing the city’s 2013-14 budget and told his board he expects to be able to “dig up another $10,000” to fund the city’s portion of the SRO.
When asked by aldermen about the proposal, City Marshal Robert Rickerd noted the SRO officer would be subject to emergency call-out status on weekend if needed to respond to a crisis or investigative situation in town. When schools are on holiday and summer vacation, the SRO would pull shifts as a city patrolman.
“This is something the school board approached me with,” said Rickerd at the budget workshop last week in reference to Brock and Garner. “If Matt is off the road nine months, I have to have someone to replace him.”
Ron Miller, alderman in Ward 1, inquired about scheduling and benefits for a police office assigned to a school setting.
“It’s confusing who it truly in charge of this person,” said Miller. “I understand the idea. I get it.”
The question was, he added, was how to make it work?
City Clerk Bobbi Limberg informed aldermen a police officer must work at least 30 hours a week to qualify for insurance, benefits and holiday pay. Police are paid overtime after working above 86 hours in a two-week period.
“The easiest way to do this if the board wants to,” said Rickerd, “is to have (the school district reimburse the city for nine months of salary. He remains a full-time city employee. We’ll work out the details on scheduling.”
Garner noted that “scheduling seems to get smoother and smoother each year,” since they began having a SRO work in the schools on a limited basis.
Ward 2 Alderman John Kamler said he’s seen programs put on by Peters. “I’ve been to several things and Matt’s doing a great job,” said Kamler. Peters presented a seminar for parents on awareness of synthetic, or designer, drugs that was well received. He also presented a similar program to aldermen.
Garner said any performance evaluations could be shared by school district and city supervisors. Garner, responding to Berger, said the school would appreciate having Peters supplied with a squad car. “We like the presence of a car on site,” said Garner.
With a budgeted expenditure planned for a new squad car in the new fiscal year, Kamler suggested the older car could be designated for the SRO position.
“I think we need to find a way to make it work,” said Kamler.
R-2 officials agreed with Tracy that an agreement should be drawn up and signed by both parties.
“I think the board would really like him full time and you wouldn’t have him at all,” said Brock who conceded they did not need those services over the summer.
Brock said the district would also be willing to fund any CEUs (continuing education units) Peters might need to take for SRO recertification as required. Rickerd noted the city has already paid into a program through an academy which provides CEUs for SROs.
Miller, who acknowledged the “changing world” facing the community, inquired again about police staffing needs.
Rickerd told aldermen that with an increase by one-third in the number of calls, he would “like to have the seventh full-time officer” if one officer leaves for the SRO position. When scheduling vacations, it may leave only one officer on duty on certain shifts. Problems arise when jail transports arise or police request backup in the growing number of domestic disputes. Increases in police investigations into thefts and vandalism have been documented over the past year. Rickerd noted a particular problem without the seventh officer is having to call in someone who has a scheduled day off.
Miller asked if Tracy would be able to “find 25 grand in six months” to fund the new position. “At this point, that’s all I’m asking for,” said Miller.
Tracy said that could be arranged with a budget amendment in six months by moving a street transfer back into general fund and using capital improvement funds for scheduled road work.
Aldermen will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Monday, June 17, at City Hall prior to approval of a balanced budget showing $3,301,837.26 of projected income and equal spending for fiscal 2013-14 which begins July 1.
A public notice listing city income and spending by funds is found on page 25 in this week’s issue as required by state statute.
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