The Bridgewater-Raritan Board of Education and the Township Council may be heading for a showdown on hiring an additional police officer to serve as a resource officer at the high school.
While they agree in principle on adding the officer, the board and council are divided over the cost, which the school district has agreed to fund.
A resolution entering into an agreement with the school board is on the Township Council’s agenda for its Monday meeting, though no monetary amount is included.
In addition, the school district has agreed to pay the full 12 months of the officer’s annual salary, though the officer will only be on school grounds for 10 months. In the summer, except for training sessions with district staffers, the officer would be performing duties not related to the school district. Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
“The board is being very generous,” Schilder said about the offer to pay the full annual salary.
The school board and council are about $27,000 apart — the school board has offered to pay $88,200 for the officer’s first year, including benefits and pension.
After a meeting earlier this month with the superintendent and Police Chief Richard Borden, the council countered with a request for the district to pay $125,000 annually in a five-year contract, Schilder said.
School Business Administrator Peter Starrs said under the board’s proposal, the district would then up its payment for the officer from $88,200 to $95,000 in the second year and $103,000 in the third year.
The school board has included $100,000 in the 2013-14 budget for the officer.
Schilder said both Borden and Mayor Dan Hayes back the school district.
“The mayor completely supports my position,” the superintendent said.
There is now a full-time resource officer and two security guards on the sprawling high school campus.
The district has been considering the addition of another full-time resource officer for four years, the superintendent said, but the push for another officer gained impetus with the Newtown shooting in December, Schilder said.
The high school presents unique security problems because students must walk between buildings for classes, the superintendent said. The Garretson Road campus has 11 buildings.
The two security guards patrol the parking lots, but the district wants to add another guard. The guards would patrol the entire campus, Schilder said.
“It’s very appropriate for a high school our size,” he said.
The school district developed the $88,200 figure after meeting with Hayes and Borden, who were “extremely cooperative,” Schilder said.
Council members had expressed concerns that the $88,200 amount was for a new officer and a more experienced officer would cost more.
School Board President Patrick Breslin lamented that the township police department dropped its DARE officer program in the 2009-10 fiscal crisis. That program, he said, allowed young children to develop a relationship with police officers, he said.
“There are kids going into high school now who never had that experience,” Breslin said.
He added that a second resource officer at the high school would “go a long way” to improving relations between the community and police.
Board members suggested that the school district investigate whether the second resource officer could be drawn from the ranks of the Raritan Police Department or the Somerset County Sheriff’s Department.
But the superintendent said having a Bridgewater officer would be ideal because police headquarters is directly across Commons Way from the high school.