Resource officers cut

Published 9:17 pm Saturday, April 13, 2013

Police like to work in pairs, but full-time resource officers in Suffolk’s public high schools no longer have a buddy to get their back.

Supplementary officers have been cut because there is no money to pay for them, an administrator says.

“That was just a luxury, to have a second one there,” said Kevin Alston, district assistant superintendent for instructional services.

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Suffolk is reportedly the only Hampton Roads city that does not supply police in schools without charging its corresponding school district.

Suffolk Public Schools’ 2013-2014 budget allocates $550,985 for security services, which Alston said includes compensation and benefits for resource officers and bus monitors, plus operating costs. Hall monitors were cut in a previous budget.

Every year, the district pays the city about 10 months’ of salaries and benefits for its full-time officers, according to Alston.

“They give us the money, and we turn around and give it back,” he said.

The part-time officers that vanished from corridors in March were paid directly by the district to moonlight in their time off from city duties.

Officers in Suffolk’s schools typically work from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. On top of payments to the city, the school district also directly pays the full-time offers still in place three hours of daily overtime, Alston said.

All this has meant that the security services allocation was always overspent. Funds would be transferred from other sections of the budget to make up the difference, Alston said.

But with those surpluses set to dry up after the city proposed paying only a third of an extra $9 million in local funds requested by the district, Alston said he was counseled to re-think the arrangement.

“I was told this year I might want to think about that,” he said. “There’s nowhere to transfer from. I looked at my budget and decided I’m going to pull back on that.”

Tough times are also affecting another aspect of school security: the closed-circuit television system. “I don’t have any money to repair cameras right now,” Alston said.

But the district would still provide the usual increased police presence at graduations and spring sporting events, he said.

Nonetheless, “We are getting down to the bare bones on security.”

Turlington Woods, the district’s alternative school serving students in grades six to 12, shares a school resource officer with Forest Glen Middle School.

Alston said he is sure the second officers will be reassigned to high schools toward the end of the instructional year, when excess money becomes available.

“I just want to make sure we have got the money (first),” he said.