City asks Steamboat school district to help with resource officer’s pay

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— Faced with tighter 2012 budgets, officials from the Steamboat Springs Police Department and the Steamboat Springs School District last week met to discuss how much each should contribute next year to the salary of the district’s school resource officer.

During the 15 years the school district has had a resource officer working in the high school, the district has only twice split the cost of the position’s salary and benefits with the city. In the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years, the district paid $32,964 of officer Josh Carrell’s salary but did not contribute last year because of budget reductions.

Including benefits, Carrell receives an annual salary of $83,764 from the city, according to city Finance Director Deb Hinsvark. Under the previous cost-splitting agreements, the school district paid for half of the benefits that would be offered to a school district employee.

City Council President Cari Hermacinski last month asked Steamboat Springs School Board members Laura Anderson and Brian Kelly during a brief meeting whether their district would be able to pitch in for the salary again next year.

“Last year, we were faced with, ‘Do we cut fifth-grade band?’ and the year before that, we looked at cutting counselors,” Anderson replied. “We would love to contribute (funds for the resource officer position) and go back to 50-50, but we don’t know if it’s going to shake out.”

Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks and Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman last week met with Police Capt. Joel Rae and Parks and Recreation Commission Director Chris Wilson to discuss sharing the cost of Carrell’s salary again in 2012.

“They’re looking at their numbers, and we’re looking at our numbers, and we don’t know yet where they will fall,” Rae said Monday.

The discussions also come at a time when Carrell is spending less time at the high school.

Rae said a short staffing situation at the police department this year has resulted in Carrell spending more time on patrol than at the high school. He said since the start of school, Carrell has been at the high school only a couple of hours a week.

“We lost five police officers within a few months, so it was our short staffing situation that caused us to pull him out of the high school more often,” Rae said.

Rae said the resource officer has been able to be at the school full time only during major school functions such as the recent homecoming celebration.

Seeing the value

The Police Department and the school district have expressed a strong desire to keep the resource officer position regardless of how funding falls next year, and school district officials said this week that having a resource officer at the high school full time is a goal of the negotiations with the city. Taulman last week praised Carrell’s presence around the 622 students at the high school. He said the resource officer position is a valuable form of insurance.

“Most of us deal only with a police officer when we’re pulled over, and having (Josh) here allows students to see them in a different, more positive light,” he said. “His presence here is always a huge benefit.”

Taulman said Carrell has served a variety of roles at the high school as he works closely with the Teen Council and helps students obtain permits for bonfires or other out-of-school activities. He said the officer’s ability to prevent alcohol and drug use is harder to quantify or validate.

“The prevention side is always hard to judge,” he said. “But having an officer here is a valuable insurance. We’re very fortunate to not have had a violent act here, but it’s the first time there is an incident and there isn’t a (resource officer) here that it looks bad.”

Cost sharing

Meeks and Rae said their meeting last week focused mostly on the monetary worth of the city and school district’s use of each other’s facilities, and the city has not decided how much to ask the school district to pay next year.

“We asked for partial funding, and then all of these other conversations took place about benefits each of us receive from the use of city and school district facilities primarily from high school athletics and parks and recreation use,” Rae said. “Those are the numbers our finance people will look at to see what’s reasonable” for the school district to contribute.

He said the discussion would help the city and the school district to eventually negotiate a fair contribution for the resource officer’s salary next year.

Dale Mellor, the school district’s finance director, said that during the past two years, the city has given the school district a check for about $5,000 to cover costs incurred by use of school district facilities for city programs.

Rae said the city and school district realize budgets are tight and will continue to work toward a reasonable funding solution.

“You cannot put a value on this position,” he said. “The position is about building relationships with students and building rapport. It’s about being a resource to those kids, and it’s about crime prevention and safety. It’s important for us to have him in the schools.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

spidermite 3 years, 1 month ago

The school resource officer earns $83,764.00 a year? This can't be right. He is paid to help the students obtain a bonfire permit? No wonder the schools always need $.

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cheesehead 3 years, 1 month ago

Is this the same position that was occupied by an officer who was sleeping with a 17 yr old student, then later deemed not to be a person "in a position of trust?' just curious.

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spidermite 3 years, 1 month ago

This is that position. You have been here for awhile.

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BeCoolHoneyBunny 3 years, 1 month ago

WOW! $83,764? What are the costs of benefits and what is his actual pay?

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Personally, I see no reason to have an officer spend that much time at the school.

Seems to me that everyone involved acknowledges that it isn't very important since they have largely pulled him from the school to perform patrol duties. Well, if they say that patrolling is more important than being the resource officer then maybe we should listen and be making better use of this officer's time than doing the most tedious things at the school.

It'd seem to make far more sense to add a counselor that should cost less than pay for a police officer at the schools. Presumably, a counselor can advise the teen council and fill out a bonfire permit as well.

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spidermite 3 years, 1 month ago

Scott, This is a first but I agree with you. The PD is less then five minutes away if there is a problem. This $83 plus thousand can be put to a better use.

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Brent Boyer 3 years, 1 month ago

cheesehead and spidermite: The Steamboat Springs Police Department's school resource officer position is not the same one connected to the incident from several years ago. That case involved a Routt County Sheriff's Office deputy who was participating in a "school-sanctioned program" with a high school student:

http://www.steamboattoday.com/news/2004/oct/15/deputy_will_not/

Thanks, Brent

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mtnluver 3 years, 1 month ago

It's ironic that the school board voted unanimously to create a new administrative position for $83K to $90K however, the budget looks tight! Hum, pay raises last year for everyone as well! Now, we need a Prop 103 for more tax for schools! Really! I find it hard to believe we pay cops in Steamboat $80k a year. I can only speculate that there must be a ton of overtime affixed to that figure, along with benefits! Pay raises and taxation when the 99% are cash strapped and in need is absolutely ludicrous. Tiny town politics at it's finest!

Spidermite: I agree with you! The cop shop is only a few minutes response to a call. Brent: Thanks for the clearification. Scott: A community resource officer is good on site however, time and money is changing the way we do things these days. Sad.

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callguinness 3 years, 1 month ago

The $83,764 is the cost to the city for the resource officer if they don't get any help from the school district. That figures his salary and benefits, workers comp, unemployment, etc. I would guess his gross is some where around 66% of that.

66% of 83,764 is about $55,842

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John Fielding 3 years, 1 month ago

Officer Carrell serves in his position admirably, giving counsel and support to many teens in need of input from a real authority figure. I had the good fortune to learn much from him as he co-mentored a parenting skills class I attended as part of a foster parent certification. We had several discussions about the influence he has had with numerous teens, and I am convinced that the benefit is invaluable.

The cost of each of our officers is substantial, particularly due to the cost of the benefits. Nevertheless it is only comparable to other communities, not excessive by that standard. It is not high enough to prevent this attrition, nor to have a waiting list of highly qualified candidates to fill the empty positions. I maintain that this should be the case for all our public safety personnel, as our fire department faces similar challenges.

This is exactly the reason I have proposed the "dime a drink" fee for alcohol licenses and the tax on MMJ dispensaries. Most of our Police work and much of our fire and ambulance service is directly attributable to the impact the abuse of these substances have on our community.

.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

John, So yes, it makes sense to have someone giving counsel and support to teens, but why should that person be a police officer? Sounds like a job for a teen counselor.

And presumably, the teen counselor receives more training on that subject that the police officer. And teen counselors typically are paid less than police officers. So a teen counselor would be expected to do a better job at counseling teens while costing less.

And yet the plan is to have a police officer do it. Seems like a waste of money to me.

Even better, if the job is done by a teen counselor then it is school district job that the school district can decide if that is a worthwhile priority or is other administrative staff positions more important.

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spidermite 3 years, 1 month ago

John, "a real authority figure" give me a break. Scott, I hate to say it but I agree with you again.

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BeCoolHoneyBunny 3 years, 1 month ago

Seems like a school already has "real authority figures" like teachers and administrators and coaches, right? I don't see a real need to have a police officer there. Let the police do police work, and let the teachers mentor the students.

JohnFielding, While I do agree alcohol does impact the community, I don't think you can group MMJ in the category. How often do you see MMJ as a contributing factor to crime in this community? Almost never.

Why is there this call to arms about the supposed "drug problem" in steamboat? I don't see it. I would say cocaine's predominance within the bar/restaurant industry in town is more of a concern than anything else, but no one ever mentions that.

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Scott Wedel 3 years, 1 month ago

Well, considering the ideological letter with many factual errors written by the SB Police Chief supporting banning dispensaries then the officer's value as an authority figure might be as a demonstration to the students of the importance of questioning authority.

At the very least, a police officer is an odd choice to serve as counseling teens because many of the issues troubling teens are illegal so they cannot talk about the party that had alcohol, the friends using drugs and so on.

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Webby 3 years, 1 month ago

What a joke. If any school in Steamboat needs a cop there all day, what the hell is going on in these schools? Where are the teachers, counselors, vice principle, and principle? If there is a problem call the cops. Heck, hire a security guard and pay him the 30+K a year to be there all day. Let the cop do his job, that we tax payers already pay him to do, because we all know there is a lot of crime out here in Steamboat. Dang, how many officers does Steamboat have that get paid this much? We all have our priorities seriously mixed up.

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Jeff_Kibler 3 years, 1 month ago

If you don't like authority figure, at least Josh is a great role model IMHO.

Of course, America's favorite role model is filing for divorce after 72 days of marriage:

http://wonderwall.msn.com/tv/gossip-kim-kardashian-filing-for-divorce-16148.gallery?GT1=28135

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