The city of Union is seeking to renegotiate its payment agreement with the Union School District regarding school resource officers (SRO).
The proposed change would alter how SROs are paid. Under the current agreement, the city and school split the cost of an SRO 50/50 when an officer is doing school-related activities. The city is proposing to change that structure.
Under the city’s proposal, SROs would be paid 100 percent by the school when working for the district and 100 percent by the city when working for Union.
Union City Administrator Russell Rost told the board of aldermen Monday night the city has proposed a new payment plan to the district. The Union School Board is expected to discuss the plan Wednesday night.
The city and school have been engaged in recent discussions regarding SROs. The school district has requested the Union Police Department provide another officer so all schools in the city limits would have an SRO.
The city has asked the school district to consider a payment option that would lessen the its financial obligation.
The new idea simplifies the agreement, Rost said. It clearly spells out which group has to pay for the SRO based on what the officer is doing.
For example, if the officer is working in a school, the district would be billed for 100 percent of those hours. If the officer was working traffic duty on a weekend, the city would foot 100 percent of the bill.
Rost said this formula also would extend to things like training. If the officer was undergoing mandatory firearms training, Union would pay 100 percent of the salary. If the officer was doing SRO training, the school would foot the bill.
The idea is borrowed from other police departments, Rost said. After checking in with comparable police departments, he said he found out most utilize this pay structure.
The city of Washington and Washington School District pay officers in this fashion, Rost said.
According to data provided to him by Washington, under its agreement with the school district, SRO pay is mostly handled by the school district. Rost said it was almost at a 75-25 ratio of district work to city work.
If the payment plan were already in place, Rost said he calculated Union SROs spend about 72 percent of their time working at schools.
In April, Union Police Chief Norm Brune pointed out the current agreement is a stated 50/50 split, but that only covers when an officer is working for the school. In times like during the summer, the officer is paid 100 percent by the city.
The pay breakdown also is easier to calculate. When it comes to billing the school district, he said it would be much simpler to figure out where the officer worked and who is responsible for the payment.
Currently Union police allocate three SROs to the school district.
An officer is assigned to Central Elementary, Union Middle School and Union High School. The middle school position is currently vacant, but should be filled by the start of next year.
The school board talked in April about adding an SRO for Clark-Vitt Elementary. The district would like an SRO in the building by the start of the 2018-19 school year.
“Unfortunately, with the situations we’ve had in the United States in the last few years with the intruders and the school violence, I think having an SRO at each building on a regular basis is good for our students and our staff,” Union Superintendent Dr. Steve Weinhold said recently.
Both entities are open to the idea, but have been trying to solve the financial puzzle. The city and school district are in the midst of budgeting for the next fiscal year. The fiscal year for both begins July 1.
Money for the additional SRO is already included in the district’s preliminary budget, Weinhold said.
The city is still trying to work out the numbers.
If both sides reach an agreement, the city would likely have to hire an additional officer.
In addition to the three school district SROs, two more are assigned on a full-time basis to East Central College. Brune said no other police department in the area has that many SROs.