In meetings held simultaneously, Milford School District and the City of Milford approved a Memorandum of Understanding related to school resource officers in the district. The Board of Education discussed the contract briefly at their meeting.
“We were able to reach an agreement with the city for a five year phased increase and that corresponds to the contract negotiations that they’re having with the Milford Police,” Dr. Sara Croce, Chief Financial Officer for Milford School District said. “We were able to cut the costs for the school crossing guard agreement in half with recognition from the city that they will participate in that program with us for the safety of our students.”
School Board President Jason Miller asked if Dr. Croce felt this was a fair agreement for both parties and Croce stated that she felt that it was. The school board approved the agreement unanimously with no further agreement. The discussion at City Council, however, was much longer. At that meeting, the MOU was presented by Lou Vitola, Finance Director.
“Costs have gone up so much and the MOU had gotten stale over the years. It seemed like it was a lot for the district to digest at first. They were looking at ways to really just impact the budget less while we were looking for ways to take a step towards full cost recovery,” Vitola said. “So, we presented full cost recovery numbers based on a time split of when the officers serve the school district which is roughly nine or 10 months a year and then there is the entirety of the summer. With that split, it was just too much for the budget to sustain and the MOU kind of modeled the responsibilities of the crossing guards and other services came into play like parks and rec but we decided to tackle those separately and keep this agreement focused on the SROs and the police.”
Vitola explained that the city used a five-year stability rate that would eventually result in full cost recovery to the city for the school resource officers. The increase would be $7,500 per year for the next five years with a starting point of $145,000 for two school resource officers. The district did have the flexibility to choose how many officers they wanted as long as the city could provide additional officers with current staffing. The MOU also allows for the agreement to simply renew after five yeas unless there were changes necessary.
“We really wanted to promote good working relationships. We don’t want to revisit this every year and haggle and argue over the true cost of the officers. We’ve got a contract in place that escalates the wages,” Vitola said. “It’s fair for Milford residents to receive for cost recovery for any services for any of our departments. And we think it’s a fair contract for the the school district as well as the city so that’s where we landed and hopefully, if Council approves it with no changes tonight and in the school district does too, then it’ll be an effect.”
Mayor Archie Campbell asked Vitola to confirm that there were only two officers included in the MOU and Vitola stated that this was true, that there were two confirmed officers dedicated as school resource officers. Chief Kenneth Brown confirmed that, due to staffing challenges at the police department, only two officers could be provided to the district and that the district made up the difference by using constables in other schools.
“I’m saying you have Lulu Ross, Mispillion and Banneker, the elementary schools. Two are close to each other, only about a block away. The other one is almost on the other side. You have one person covering all three of those schools,” Mayor Campbell said. “And then we have one in middle school and one in the middle school. Especially what’s going on in schools today. Me being in that school for seven years. I am not comfortable with that, to be honest. I mean if something was to happen and let’s say it’s not Mispillion or Lulu Ross, but at Banneker. it’s going to be bad for that one person to get over to Banneker from Ross or Mispillion.. So, that does not make me warm and comfortable. High School, Middle School, they’re pretty close and they can kind of get there pretty quickly because I did both schools. But with what’s going on in society today, I am not comfortable.”
Councilman Andy Fulton pointed out that the old Milford Middle School would be opening as well to which Mayor Campbell stated that it would not be open for a few years.
“I know but I mean, but this agreement is based upon two. But I mean it could be a little bit more open where it’s based upon the needs of the school district as identified,” Councilman Fulton said. “ With this billing matrix, it is written so that the school district can choose one, two or three.”
Vitola agreed, stating that as long as the police could accommodate the choice for additional officers, that would be possible. However, based on the district’s budget constraints, the district was comfortable with the two officer model. Councilman Jason James asked how many constables in addition to school resource officers there were. Chief Brown was not sure but he believed there were at least three. Councilman James stated that council could not make the decision for the district as to how many officers they needed.
“I completely agree that the school system, we are in a different age,” Councilman Todd Culotta said. “I agree with the mayor and his comments but they really have to determine what their security requirements are and how that fits in with what we can provide.”
Mayor Campbell continued to express his concerns.
“I’m not comfortable. I’m holding back my anger to be honest with you,” he stated.
Councilman James reiterated that this was a decision that was up to the district to tell the city what they needed but that they also needed to have the funding to cover the cost of those officers.
“It’s a crazy world now. We’re talking about one or two. We should be worried about our kids,” Mayor Campbell said. “I am not comfortable. No one here has been in those schools. I’m the only one and I see what goes on, especially middle school, which is the worst between fights and everything else. And the high schools, but I think about the elementary schools and the little kids. I want it on the record. I don’t agree with it.”
Councilman James pointed out that the MOU simply provided a cost recovery to the city for the officers provided to the district.
“I want to make sure that everybody in the audience that’s listening understands the school district needs to tell council so we can address our police department how many they need, what resources they need,” We are not in a position to make that decision for the school district. We’re a separate entity, we cannot make that decision for them. So, our lobbying and our words about how many they have really needs to be addressed by Kevin Dickerson and the school board president Jason Miller.”
Mayor Campbell stated that having only two officers in the school made him less confident in the safety of the children.
“I don’t think anybody disagrees with you, Mayor,” Councilman Culotta said. “I just think that there’s a process and that’s why we have a school board and school administration. And we can work together with them, certainly, but it’s not our job to dictate what they need.”
Councilwoman Katrina Wilson pointed out the discussion was much like one council had about Carlisle Fire Company recently.
“It is almost like Carlisle, where we felt as though we were in agreement for giving an amount but we felt to so it should be directed in a different department versus where they wanted it to go,” Councilwoman Wilson said. “ It’s kind of like same kind of thing. And, maybe a conversation can happen with the school and with us, but they are charged to be protecting our children and it is that body who’s got to make that decision what’s needed first.”
The MOU was approved by council with Mayor Campbell going on record that he did not agree with only two officers provided to the district.
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