Who should pay for school security?
By Amanda Tonoli
A Canfield resident and city councilwoman challenge the need for the city to pay part of a school-resource officer’s salary.
Canfield schools SRO salaries are funded with one officer’s salary paid for 100 percent by the district for a nine-month period, $66,733; the other officer’s salary is paid for by a contribution for a nine-month period, $32,187, by Canfield Township and the remainder by the city, $76,000.
With the school district’s $14.2 million unreserved fund balance from the 2017-18 school year, resident Frank Micchia reasoned the city shouldn’t have to contribute to the school district’s police.
An unreserved fund balance is an amount of money available to be appropriated.
“I tried to make the point that the school board has the responsibility to provide school safety,” he said. “It is not the responsibility of the city. The school system and the city government are two different entities.”
Councilwoman Christine Oliver agrees with Micchia.
“If the school system has that much money, they should be paying for school resource officers,” she said.
Superintendent Alex Geordan said in a statement: “The community support has allowed the district to make many safety and security upgrades over the past five years. Adding an additional resource officer was the result of multiple discussions with both the city and the township. An agreement was made between all three parties, and each passed the agreement to create the best possible scenario for all taxpayers.
“It’s not our philosophy to question another entity’s finances without understanding the entire picture. There was ample time for discussion during our meetings. The topic of school finance was never questioned.”
Despite Oliver’s comment, city council unanimously approved a motion to “authorize the city manager to enter into an agreement on behalf of the City of Canfield with Canfield Township and the Canfield Board of Education regarding the allocation of costs related to the provision of School Resource Officers.”
Canfield schools have predicted an unreserved fund balance of $15.1 million in 2018-19 and $11.8 million by 2022.
“The school system has the financial resources and obligation to provide security for all the schools, but has elected not to,” Micchia said, referencing the fact that the district has two officers for its four buildings, rather than an officer for each building. “Many people have addressed the school board in regard to full coverage at all the schools. So far, it has fallen on deaf ears.”
Canfield Police Chief Chuck Colucci said he understands school safety is a fluid conversation.
“The city and township and school district worked very hard to work out the current agreement,” he said. “School safety is something we’ll constantly monitor.”
Some districts pay for their own officers.
In Youngstown City Schools the district pays for one officer in every building. Youngstown schools had an unreserved fund balance of $23.1 million from 2017-18 and has forecast an unreserved fund balance of $12.1 from 2018-19.
In Austintown, with an unreserved fund balance of $7.6 million from 2017-18 and a forecast unreserved balance of $5.2 million in 2018-19, one SRO is paid for through a grant from the police department, and officers at the entrances of the four buildings are paid an hourly wage by the district.
Other school districts mirror Canfield’s practice.
In Liberty, with an unreserved fund balance of $3.6 million in 2017-18 and a forecast unreserved fund balance of $1.9 million in 2018-19, one SRO is paid for 50 percent by the school board and 50 percent by the township. Superintendent Joe Nohra said the cost of the SRO to the schools – new this year – is yet to be determined.
In Poland, with an unreserved fund balance of $3.7 million in 2017-18 and a forecast unreserved fund balance of $4.3 million in 2018-19, two officers are paid for a nine-month period entirely by the school district at $20 per hour. Another officer is paid 50 percent by Poland Township and 50 percent by a grant.