Steamboat Springs Routt County Commissioner Doug Monger said Tuesday that he was "shocked and flabbergasted" by the Steamboat Springs School District's request for $266,000 to help match a federal school security grant.
Showing his frustration at the commissioner's table in the Routt County Courthouse Annex, Monger told interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser, facilities director Rick Denney and Steamboat Springs School Board President Robin Crossan that he would not support the request for a supplemental item to the county's 2008 budget and would consider only up to $20,000 next year.
"I was not only shocked and flabbergasted, I was actually offended by the amount of contribution requested here," Monger said, adding that the South Routt and Hayden school districts could use the funds more than Steamboat Springs schools.
"As far as I'm concerned, the Steamboat (Springs) School District is the richest governmental entity in the county," he said. "That is quite evident by the spending habits by a previous board. : When you can buy out the superintendent for $250,000 and fund a football field, then I guess there are some value judgments that need to be taken care of as to what is more important than security."
In December, school officials received a $533,000 federal "Secure Our Schools" grant to help boost security measures at all four schools in the district. To help match the grant, district officials have set aside $245,000. Superintendent Sandra Smyser hoped commissioners would partner with the district to contribute the additional funds.
Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said Tuesday's request was almost 10 times larger than any request ever granted by county commissioners for a capital project.
"We have never contributed to any entity for any kind of capital project more than $25,000," she said. "I'm pretty strong in telling my department managers that they shouldn't come to us with supplemental budgets, : and we need to hold to that."
With no chance of commissioners coming close to matching their funding request, school officials are left looking for new funding sources, such as the city's Education Fund Board.
The new security equipment could include external and internal school surveillance cameras, electronic key card access systems, hand-held and mobile radios, and bi-directional radio amplifiers to improve communications.
The School Board voted Dec. 3 to authorize Smyser to direct district staff to acquire the 800 MHz radios, which will cost the district $145,284. The bi-directional radio amplifiers were also approved, but the School Board continues to debate the need for internal security cameras.
Commissioners questioned why school officials requested funds Tuesday, before the School Board has decided on what security hardware would be installed. Smyser responded that due to construction of a new Soda Creek Elementary School, some expenditures, such as the electronic key card access systems, need to be ordered as soon as possible.
"The School Board has not thrown their full weight behind the (interior cameras) idea yet, and it will most likely be on their agenda for next week," Smyser said. "There doesn't seem to be much discussion at all about exterior cameras. That seems to be something that everyone wants."
Denney told commissioners that the security hardware was recommended to school officials during a 2007 school security audit.
"The hardware they described in their recommendations, I didn't think we had a ghost of a chance of putting in during the next two years," he said. "I thought it was five to 10 years out based on the magnitude of what their recommendations were."
Monger said he sees a lot of "want versus need" in the security hardware, and he is unwilling to contribute such a large amount of money toward security measures when county buildings are facing the same concerns.
"We have all the same funding needs and priority needs you have, and a lot of your funding is irrelevant if we don't take care of the things we have to do," he said. "Don't come back and put the blame on us when we have similar security interest in our government buildings as well."
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