School resource officer one step closer to reality

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Sweet Home Budget Committee approved the city’s proposed budget Thursday night, including the last of the funding needed to hire a local school resource police officer.

The School District 55 Budget Committee approved half of the funding for the position on April 30.

Supt. Larry Horton, Police Chief Bob Burford and other administrators will now meet to develop the program for next school year. In the meantime, final approval rests with the School Board and City Council following public hearings on their budgets in June. The members of both the School Board and City Council also serve on the budget committees, which both approved their budgets unanimously.

Police were in local schools every day two weeks ago, Burford told the Budget Committee.

Anecdotal evidence over the past 12 months seems to show an increase in narcotics activity, especially at Sweet Home Junior High, Burford said. A staff survey at the high school showed that staff in the outlying buildings there do not always feel comfortable with people coming onto campus.

“We don’t believe a student resource officer is going to make our schools safe from school violence,” Burford said, adding it will help create connections among the staff, students and police, paying dividends in the future.

With those connections in place, it means situations, such as earlier this year when an 11-year-old took a gun to Oak Heights, may be resolved faster.

The most disturbing part of that incident, Burford said, was the number of students who saw the firearm but did not report it to a teacher or the principal.

The officer’s purpose is largely to build a trust with the students, Burford said.

The position will be filled by an experienced officer, Burford said, and the department will backfill the regular patrol position that is left vacant.

Some resource officers deal only with crime, while others assist in disciplinary issues, Burford said. How this officer will work will be settled among district and city officials. Conceptually, the officer will probably spend about 50 percent of his or her time at the High School, another 20 to 30 percent at the Junior High and the rest in the elementary schools, having lunch at least one day a week at the grade schools.

The officer will work in the schools nine months of the year and on the streets during the summer.

Burford said he doesn’t know how valuable the DARE program was in terms of curriculum, but it did help connect the officers to students, and students would find out that they could talk to and laugh with police officers.

“It’s something I think is long overdue,” committee member Dave Holley said of the new position.

The Police Department also is planning to buy and install computers in its patrol cars, at a cost of about $80,000. Police officers will be able to receive information from dispatch computers, and they also will be able to write their reports while on patrol.

Two years ago, the cost of the upgrade was about $270,000, Burford said, but with the infrastructure work the department has completed since then, the cost this year is about $80,000.

The Budget Committee finished its review of the proposed budget on Thursday with presentations on the Police Department, library and Public Works funds.

Police Fund

The overall Police Department Budget increases from $2.5 million to $2.75 million.

The majority of the increase is in personnel costs, with the personnel on the police side of the budget increasing from $1.4 million to $1.5 million, counting the new school resource officer, and from $334,000 to $355,000 on the dispatch side.

The increases in personnel cost include a retirement cash-out option for police officers.

The remainder of the increases are within the materials and services and the capital outlays sections of the funds, including about $15,000 in digital camera equipment to allow recording from cameras at the skate park and Weddle Bridge along with cameras at the police department.

The department will receive approximately $1.4 million from its local option levy. An additional $350,000 will be transferred to the department from the General Fund. The department also uses an estimated $743,000 in carryover from 2006-07, $220,000 higher than budgeted. The city is budgeting a carryover of $542,000 to 2008-09 up from a budgeted $523,000 from the 2006-07 year.

Library Fund

Sweet Home Public Library’s budget will increase from $199,000 to $259,000 in 2007-08, the increase in revenue primarily coming in a $34,000 transfer from the General Fund and an increase of about $11,000 in taxes collected.

The library will receive about $142,000 from its local option levy this year.

The city will spend $139,000, up from $101,000 on library personnel. This includes raises, a vacation buyout program and benefits for its part-time employees.

Materials and services costs will go up from $51,000 to $60,000. Of that about $5,000 is in operating supplies, the line item used to purchase books. It is budgeted at $30,000 for 2007-08.

Public Works

Streets

The street maintenance fund will increase from $752,000 to $779,000, the majority of the increase reflected in increased personnel costs, from $305,000 to $327,000.

The street maintenance and improvements fund will include $125,000 set aside to repave and reconstruct portions of Second Avenue, north of Highway 228.

The fund carries over year to year at around $1.5 million, which was initially transferred to the city by Linn County when the city took over county roads in the east part of the city. It is used to pay for street projects, with interest generally used to maintain the fund. The city had $150,000 budgeted in this fund for projects in 2006-07.

The fund is carrying about $1.4 million from 2006-07 and will end with about $1.4 million in carryover in 2007-08.

Water

The water fund will increase from $1.6 million to $1.77 million from 2006-07 to 2007-08.

A rate increase will provide $1.4 million in revenue, up from $1.2 million, the bulk of revenues in the fund. The details of the rate increase have not yet been provided by the city.

The cost of the water treatment plant was moved from personnel to materials and services, where it is funded by contract with OMI. The budget shows approximately $10,000 in savings by using OMI to operate the plant.

The bulk of expenditure increases in the water fund is a reserve for capital construction of $196,000, up from $88,000. That spending is part of the new water treatment plant project.

The water fund’s capital construction fund includes $4.5 million for the construction of the new plant. The city had set aside about $5 million for the project last year and spent money on an intake structure at Foster Dam, but it did not begin construction on the plant.

The city has access to approximately $4.3 million in loans to fund the project, which Public Works Director Mike Adams hopes to have completed in 2008.

Wastewater

The wastewater fund will increase from $1.8 million to $1.9 million.

A rate increase will provide about $1.67 million, up from $1.48 million.

The fund will reduce a transfer for depreciation from $335,000 to $148,000. The fund also saves about $40,000 through its contract with OMI to operate the wastewater treatment plant. The reduced expenditures are offset by debt payments, which increase from $349,000 to $519,000.

The debt has been accrued by projects to reduce inflow and infiltration, water that leaks into the system through deteriorating pipes and cross connections to storm drain systems.

Total expenditures will increase by about $3,000, from $1.790 million to $1.793 million.

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