The addition of $100,000 for a school resource officer in Springville-Griffith School District’s 2013-14 budget was questioned during the School Board’s meeting last week.
The post is budgeted in a preliminary $15.8 million spending plan.
Superintendent Paul Connelly, who said the funding would cover salary and benefits, noted the $100,000 is an estimate because the district might not have a choice of officers, who could come from the active ranks of state police or the Erie County Sheriff’s Office.
Board member Janine Caimano suggested hiring a retired police officer at a lower cost. However, the superintendent said there were benefits to hiring an active-duty officer, who would be equipped with a car, radio and a network of professionals.
Kara Kane asked why the district doesn’t hire an officer immediately.
“If it’s that important, why are we waiting until September to do this?” Kane said.
But board Vice President Delia Bonenberger wondered if a social worker might be a better choice, considering the mental state of those who would pose a threat.
“We need to be creative in this conversation,” she said.
But Board President Mel Williams defended the school resource officer as a better choice, praising the benefits of having a uniformed officer on school property – someone who could connect with students, build relationships and develop networks in all buildings.
“People should get away from the idea of a person standing by the front door with a big gun,” he said. “Good police work is built on conversations,” he said.
Williams, who is a professional security auditor, said the presence of the officer would deter drug trafficking in the district, as well.
The board did not make a decision, but Connelly urged quick action.
“I need to know what everyone is thinking about. I don’t want tough decisions in the 12th hour,” the superintendent said.
Business administrator Ted Welch said the preliminary budget still needs about $1 million in cuts, but he called the $15.8 million plan – which is 7 percent more than the current budget – a starting point.
“The goal is to get down as close to this year’s budget as possible,” he said.