Funding for the Steamboat Springs High School resource officer is the latest potential budget victim for the city of Steamboat Springs and the Steamboat Springs School District.
City officials have asked the school district to fund half of the position, which has been paid for in full by the city since the job was created about 12 years ago. Police Officer Josh Carrell is the high school's current resource officer.
Carrell's salary is about $84,000, including benefits. Several weeks ago, city representatives asked the district if it would be willing to pay $21,000 for the position for the remainder of the current school year, and $42,000 in upcoming school years.
"It's not really a matter of trying to eliminate the position," Assistant City Finance Director Bob Litzau said. "It's a matter of trying to keep the position and balance the city's budget."
School Board members discussed the plan at a Nov. 3 meeting, but tabled any decisions. During the meeting, board member John DeVincentis expressed concern with providing better benefits to a resource officer than what are offered to regular district employees. The resource officer receives a standard city benefits package and a police officer's pension plan.
Other board members, concerned about the Referendum 2A half-cent sales tax vote scheduled for the following evening, wanted to wait until the city and district's budgets were more definite before taking action.
Because of the tight budget, School Board Vice President Denise Connelly said no program was immune from being cut, including the school resource officer position, a position she said she supports.
"I think that we don't really know exactly what's going to be on the table. We're going to be looking at everything in terms of benefit to students," Connelly said.
So far, there have been no discussions about cutting the officer's hours at the school or cutting the program. High school Assistant Principal Marty Lamansky said the officer has played an important role in the high school, and he hopes to see it maintained as a full-time role.
"As far as daily routine, he's a tremendous asset for the safety of students, both psychologically, as well as physically," Lamansky said. "They know there is someone to go to from a law enforcement perspective that they can report everything."
Capt. Joel Rae, who has been in discussions with Superintendent Shalee Cunningham, said it is not uncommon for districts to pay part of the resource officer's salary.
"It's very commonplace across the state and across the country that school districts contribute at least a portion of the school resource officer salary," Rae said.
An informal survey of school administrators conducted by www.principalspage.com showed a variety of funding methods, with districts paying nothing, the whole salary, or a range of percentages.
Cunningham said a number of options have been discussed, including possible grants or other divisions of the funding, but "the city staff was most comfortable with splitting it, and I think most school districts in Colorado are doing (that)."
The change in funding by the city will go before the City Council Nov. 18, and Cunningham will present the School Board with more information at its meeting Nov. 17.
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