The costs are worth it

Published 5:22 pm Monday, June 17, 2013

Although it may come as somewhat of a shock to the Beaufort County Board of Education, the Washington City Council’s decision to charge Beaufort County Schools what it actually costs to provide school resource officers to two schools is a wise one.

The decision means city taxpayers are not subsidizing the costs of providing police officers at Washington High School and P.S. Jones Middle School during the school year. We expect some people will say that the costs of providing those school resources officers are being shifted to county taxpayers. Well, remember this: city taxpayers also are county taxpayers. The school system serves the entire county. The school system is funded, in part, by the county.

Over the years, the school system had been getting a break when it came to having city police officers serving as school resource officers at schools in the city. The school system had been paying about half the actual cost to have those school resource officers on the campuses.

A city-staff memorandum puts the cost of the P.S. Jones Middle School officer at $64,000 for the upcoming school year. Another such memorandum puts the cost for the Washington High School officer at $67,000. The school system had been paying about half those amounts for officers in past school years.

During budget deliberations in recent years, council members directed city staff to develop school resource officer agreements that covered the actual costs of providing the officers. The new agreements accomplish that, according to Matt Rauschenbach, interim city manager and the city’s chief financial officer.

Rauschenbach told the council that BCS Superintendent Don Phipps has been made aware the costs for providing the two officers would significantly increase for the coming school year.

“I believe probably in the last six or eight years the compensation has been the same, roughly $76,000, which doesn’t come close to what our actual cost is. Staff recalculated the actual cost, and it’s more like $135,000,” Rauschenbach told the council last week.

Research indicates the 90 percent of cities providing school resource officers are charging full costs to do so, said Rauschenbach.

The city perhaps could have done a better job of informing the school system about its intention in regard to the school resource officers and preparing the school system for the change. But the school system was placed on notice several years ago that the change would be coming.

The school resource officers assigned to Washington High School and P.S. Jones Middle School provide a valuable and needed service.

If there are some differences between the city and school system over this matter, they need to settle those differences so students are afforded the layers of protection and security provided by the school resource officers.