OTTUMWA — The city council’s rejection of the school district’s proposal on school resource officers didn’t end discussions between the two sides. On Tuesday council members will decide whether a new proposal is one they can live with.
The Ottumwa school district has three resource officers. Two work at Ottumwa High School, while the third works at Evans Middle School. Funding for the officers, originally gained largely through grants, varied. But the district paid the bulk of the costs in each case.
School officials sought a 50-50 split in the costs. The change would have brought the district’s costs down, but the city balked. In May, Police Chief Tom McAndrew told the council the net effect, after considering the increased cost for the city and the reduced contribution from the district, would be around $74,000.
Under the new proposal that figure is about $30,000 and is based on a calculation of eight hours per day, per officer, for 180 school days. City staff are recommending the council approve the deal.
A copy of the agreement shows the distribution of officers will remain the same, with two at OHS and one at Evans. But it allows for some flexibility. Officers can be sent to other buildings “if necessary and appropriate,” and will work extracurricular events like football and basketball games. Overtime in those cases will be paid by the district.
District officials had also noted during discussions they had no say in what officers were assigned to the schools. The proposed agreement does not allow the district to pick the officers, but it “may make suggestions,” on placement. The city retains final say.
The key details of the agreement are included in an appendix. The cost of each officer for the school district has been leveled at $62,481.60 per officer. That makes the total resource officer cost $187,444.80. The district also pays $10,000 for the DARE program, bringing its total bill to $197,444.80.
Officials with both the city and the district said they wanted to keep the officers in the schools, but the district also tipped that it was considering other options to bring down costs. Superintendent Nicole Kooiker said she had talked with the Wapello County Sheriff’s Department about providing officers, though that would not be possible until the 2020-2021 school year.
In late May Kooiker suggested during a school board meeting the district might have more leverage than it appeared, saying she was told the city would not eliminate the officers’ positions if it did not reach a deal with the district. That would have meant the city would have to cover the full cost of each officer.
The council meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at City Hall.