Amherst Police Chief John C. Askey offered his support Tuesday for $300,000 in security enhancements proposed by Williamsville School Superintendent Scott Martzloff to pay for school monitors, a safety resource officer and a new ID system.
Askey was among those who attended an update and discussion on the budget proposal for the 2013-14 school year that currently includes Martzloff’s districtwide safety enhancements, which were proposed in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December. However, some members of the School Board have questioned the wisdom of spending an additional $300,000 on school security in light of a budget that could raise taxes by more than 4 percent.
Accompanying Askey to Tuesday’s hearing was Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein, Assistant Police Chief Charles Cohen, Amherst Council Member Barbara Nuchereno and a school resource officer for the Sweet Home School District, Officer Jeff Gilbert.
“We’re here today specifically because of what happened at Sandy Hook. The nation is focused. I think that the only good thing comes of something like that is staying focused, get reinvigorated about making our schools safer and looking at what we can do. That’s why we’re here today,” said Askey.
For those concerned about the $150,000 cost of a school resource officer, Askey noted that the cost could be reduced.
“Officer Jeff Gilbert is my student resource officer at Sweet Home [and] when he’s not, when the school isn’t open, he’s back at the Police Department. Instead of $125,000, he’s actually only costing the school district about $85,000, because they’re just paying to replace him when he’s gone on a day-for-day basis,” said Askey.
Meanwhile School Board President Carrie Kahn wondered if there were other avenues to pursue that would avoid having a police presence in the schools, which she said might alarm younger children. Askey said the police presence in the schools would be no more noticeable than it is now.
“We aren’t talking about making impenetrable fortresses out of your schools. We’re talking about making incremental improvements to an already excellent program that you have,” said Askey.