Bellevue questions SRO cost

Bellevue Council will vote next Tuesday on whether to continue a contract with the Northgate School District for a full-time school resource officer (SRO) at Northgate Middle-High School.

The proposed contract, already approved by the Northgate School Board, would have Northgate contributing $25,000 to have a Bellevue Police officer at the school on a full-time basis, according to council members who discussed the issue at last tuesday’s pre-council meeting.

According to Northgate High School principal Brian Kyle, however, Sgt. Mike Hudson worked only three days per week during the past school year, the change made after Hudson was promoted to sergeant and he needed to perform additional duties within the department.

Council president Linda Woshner said that it costs the borough more than $80,000 a year to employ a sergeant who, according to the terms of the contract, will spend the majority of his time working full-time at the high school.

Woshner said that other area school districts -- including North Hills, North Allegheny and Sto-Rox -- do not have SROs. An officer from the Ohio Township Police Department works one or two days at week at Avonworth schools, she said, with the district paying a per diem rate to the township that covers the cost of the officer.

“We’re not well off,” Woshner said of the borough’s finances. “We’re very close to a tax increase.”

Kyle said that the SRO is very busy at the school, where he teaches DARE classes in the middle school and in law classes in the high school, is a safety and crime resource for administrators, handles any crimes that may happen in the school, and prevents crime just by being present. The knowledge the SRO gains working in the school may even prevent or solve crime in the community, Kyle said.

Other schhols, Kyle said, such as North Allegheny, have their own security staffs.

The SRO does not handle truancy cases, Kyle said, as the district employs a retired police officer to handle those o0n a case-by-case basis.

Council member Lynn Tennant-Heffley said that the SRO is too valuable simply to eliminate, and suggested council approve the proposed contract while working with Northgate, and possibly Avalon Borough -- which also sends children to Northgate Schools -- to change the way the cost is shared. Avalon currently does not contribute to the cost of the high school SRO.

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