Paying for police

Published 10:34 pm Thursday, July 10, 2014

The city would reduce future funding to the school district by about $520,000 annually if the district stops using Suffolk police officers for security, the city manager says.

“Some of your board members may not be aware, but the city funding for the resource officers is incorporated in our annual contribution,” Selena Cuffee-Glenn wrote to the Suffolk Public Schools superintendent at the end of February.

The letter was presented to School Board members during their annual retreat late last month, after board member Linda Bouchard requested a look at the duties and costs of school resource officers.


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“When I brought up the subject originally, I did not say we didn’t need police protection,” Bouchard said.

But she raised the notion of no longer paying the city for seven police officers, which are divided between high and middle schools, with Forest Glen Middle and Turlington Woods sharing one.

“Considering how much it costs … it seems like if we need a police officer, we could call the police and within five minutes they are there,” Bouchard said Thursday.

“That went over like a lead balloon.”

Cuffee-Glenn got her figure of $520,000 from the district’s allocation to pay the city for police officers in its approved 2014-2015 budget, district Finance Director Wendy Forsman said.

Forsman said the figure involves “guesstimation” after the city billed almost $392,000 for the previous school year. Suffolk Public Schools can’t predict whether the city will give police a raise or if other costs like health insurance will change, she said.

Bouchard would like to see the district quit paying the city for police officers and for the city to reduce funding to the district accordingly, as long as the city continued providing the police officers.

Passing the money back and forth doesn’t make sense, she said. While the school district foots the bill, resource officers “can come and go as the police department sees fit.”

“When the city decides to give police officers raises, or changes their insurance situation, we are required to pay without have any say-so about it,” Bouchard added.

“The only requirement should be that they provide us with fit officers.”

Bouchard also thinks the district could save money by hiring private security for sporting and other events. “When we pay a police officer, we are paying them overtime,” she said.

While her goal is to reduce costs, “that’s not to say we don’t want more money from the city,” Bouchard said.

According to Forsman, a little more than $150,000 is budgeted for police officers to provide event security during 2014-2015.

In her letter to Deran Whitney, the city manager made her position on the issue clear.

“The safety of our children, both at school and away, remains a priority of the city,” she wrote.

Discontinuing the use of “sworn law enforcement officers” for school security “is not recommended.”