School Resource Officers
See how other communities fund School Resource Officers and crossing guard positions.
It will be a lesson in sharing.
City commissioners and Lawrence school board members soon will get an opportunity to discuss how they can share and share alike when it comes to funding crossing guards and police officers who are stationed at Lawrence public schools.
"Right now, unlike in many communities, city taxpayers are picking up the entire costs of those programs," City Manager David Corliss said.
Corliss is proposing that city and school district leaders now begin discussions about splitting the costs for the two programs beginning in the 2008-09 school year. That would mean school district leaders would need to come up with about $300,000 to $350,000 to fund six full-time school resource officers and 14 part-time crossing guards.
School Superintendent Randy Weseman said he supports both programs, but finding new school dollars for them won't be simple. He estimated the school district will have $6 million worth of new funding requests for the 2008-09 school year.
"I'll ask the school board to look at that, but I'm certainly not going to predict what the school board's response will be," Weseman said. "We have pretty severe budget issues of our own."
Ditto for the city.
City Commissioner Rob Chestnut said it is important for the city to look at all ways possible to balance its budget. For the past several years, the city has operated with general fund budgets that spend more than the city is receiving in revenues. The city has been using money in fund balance accounts - a type of savings account - to cover the difference. That practice, though, must end, Chestnut said.
"We need to find a way to balance our budget," Chestnut said.
At this point, though, the city is not threatening to take its ball and go home. Neither Chestnut nor Corliss said the city was seriously contemplating ending either the school resource officer program or the crossing guard program if the school district doesn't help with the costs.
"They're critical functions that need to stay," Chestnut said. "I don't think there is any doubt about that. The SROs offer a real presence and offer good leadership for kids in the school."
Both high schools and all four junior highs have a school resource officer assigned to them. Thirteen elementary schools in the city have crossing guards. The crossing guard program costs $95,000 per year. The school resource officer program costs $600,000 per year, which includes costs of equipment and supplies.
Several Kansas communities have school resource officer programs, which originally were funded by a federal grant in the early part of this decade but was absorbed in the city budgets when the grant expired several years ago. Corliss' staff found that most cities receive some funding from school districts to help finance the program.
Corliss' staff researched 12 other Kansas communities and found that Topeka is the only other city that funds 100 percent of the school resource officer program. Most paid 40 percent or more of the program's cost. On school crossing guards, the results were mixed. Six of 12 cities pay 100 percent of the crossing guard costs, while the other six pay none of the costs.
Weseman said it was important for people to look at more than Corliss' data.
"We do have to look at these partnerships in total," Weseman said. "I don't imagine that Parks and Recreation's programs could survive very long if they didn't have the use of our gymnasiums seven days a week.
"You have to remember that this is a very symbiotic, reciprocal relationship."
At the school level, they don't care so much where the money comes from, but they definitely want to see the programs continue. Don Clancy, a trades and industry teacher at Free State High School, said the SRO program allows students to see police officers in a different light.
"They don't come in as a police officer normally would in a bad situation," Clancy said. "They come in as a friend and as a staff member."
Officer Matt Sarna has served as school resource officer at Free State for the past five years. He said he does everything from working with students who are on probation to just being a friendly face in the lunchroom for students to talk to.
"If there's one kid you can touch every year and keep them out of trouble and make them go down the right path, that's very important," Sarna said. "That's one of the special parts about this program."
Lawrence schools and locations that have crossing guards
27th & Louisiana
19th & Vermont19th & Massachusetts
Princeton & Lawrence AvenuePeterson & Arrowhead
Harvard & Iowa Street
19th & HarperHarper & Davis Road
Harvard & George Williams Way
27th & Mayfair Place28th & Kensington
6th & Mississippi5th & Maine
Inverness & Wingedfoot Ct
23rd & Ousdahl22nd & Ousdahl
(Between Wildflower & Bluestem) & 27th
9th & SchwartzHarvard & Kasold
4th & Locust7th & Locust