School district to share cost of resource officer

DeVincentis wants proof the position is worth the money

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John DeVincentis

— John DeVincentis says he doesn't like to vote for things just because they "feel good." In the example of district funding for a high school resource officer, DeVincentis wants proof the position works.

For that reason, DeVincentis was the lone Steamboat Springs School Board member to vote against a recommendation by Superintendent Shalee Cunningham for the district to fund half of the salary for a resource officer at Steamboat Springs High School. The 3-1 vote came during Monday's School Board study session.

The resource officer traditionally has been funded by the city of Steamboat Springs, but the city recently approached the district about splitting the cost. The total cost of the position is a little more than $80,000 a year, including benefits. The School Board questioned whether the district should pay for half of the city's benefits package, which is more expensive than the package received by school district employees.

As a compromise, Cunningham calculated the cost of the district's benefit package and proposed the school district reduce its share of resource officer funding from $41,298 to $37,122.

But during the study session, DeVincentis said he also wanted some quantifiable verification of the officer's role, as well as a review process and a concrete job description.

"I can't imagine we'd approve something like this without having those questions answered," DeVincentis said.

Cunningham agreed the program should be included in annual reviews.

"I think we need to evaluate this annually, John, because now it's part of our budget," she said.

Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman told the board that the Steamboat Springs Police Department conducts annual performance reviews of the resource officer in collaboration with the building principal.

The benefit of the officer at the school is multi-faceted, Taulman said. The officer, Josh Carrell, takes the lead on investigations in the school such as thefts, as well as patrols during school events and provides a person to whom students can ask questions and seek guidance.

Despite DeVincentis' concerns, the board voted 3-1 to help fund the resource officer's salary for the remainder of the school year, with an understanding that the district would work to create a review with the city and formalize the officer's job description.

Board President Robin Crossan, Vice President Denise Connelly and member Laura Anderson voted in favor of the measure. Lisa Brown was absent.

Finance questions

Also on Monday, the board questioned district Finance Director Dale Mellor during a monitoring report that detailed the district's compliance with financial policies.

Mellor was sharply questioned about the district's use of purchase orders - a system that stopped being used about three years ago - as well as the district's timeliness in paying outstanding bills.

DeVincentis said he was unhappy the district has stopped using purchase orders for requested expenses. In the past, the orders were approved by administrators before the money was spent.

Purchases now are made with no purchase orders required, Mellor reported.

"When I hear there's nobody doing purchase orders, the whole administrative thing to me has been a concern," DeVincentis said. "Somebody, maybe that's you Dale, is responsible for that."

Mellor said the district initially required all purchases to go through a purchase order system unless they were deemed emergencies by the person requesting the purchase.

"Somewhere along the line everything became an emergency, and we stopped getting (purchase orders). We had absolutely no authority to enforce that unless we said we're not going to pay the bill," Mellor said.

"It seems like a train wreck, it sounds like a problem," Crossan said.

Mellor agreed and said the district is beginning to use an electronic purchase order system will be fully functional by January.

"Know that this is something we've been working on for months, and getting this (purchase order) system on line and getting everyone up to speed is going well," Cunningham said.

Despite their criticisms, the board thanked Mellor for the report and voted to accept report as complete and reasonable by a unanimous vote of 4-0.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

Pres Plumb 5 years, 4 months ago

When was "Somewhere along the line"? Does the district have an internal audit department or function? Is it audited annually by independent auditors? How do we know that the train wreck hasn't already happened? Are written procedures in place? If not, why not? If so, why aren't they followed? Who made the decision and why haven't they been held accountable? This is inexcusable for any public organization and the school board needs to have some serious deliberation and consider actions far beyond what is described in this article!

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