Who should pay for school cops?

An announcement by Bellevue Mayor Paul Cusick at Tuesday’s pre-council meeting triggered a discussion that could impact the way the school resource officer at Northgate High School is paid.

Bellevue Police Sgt. Mike Hudson is stationed full-time at the high school during the school year at a cost of about $60,000 for nine months, according to Cusick. He said that Northgate, in the past, has contributed $20,000 to that cost, although school grants of $30,000 and $60,000 have paid a larger share the last two years.

Cusick said that he had spoken with Northgate superintendent Dr. Joe Pasquerilla, who offered to increase the district’s contribution to $30,000 for the next school year.

Meanwhile, council member Kathy Coder said that she had met with school board president Gary Paladin, and had let him know that she felt the entire cost should be Northgate’s responsibility.

Coder said that Bellevue was the only area municipality that paid for a police officer to be in the schools, and said that Hudson was needed to work in other areas of the borough.

“The problem is, he’s a Bellevue Police officer. If he wants to go work for the school district, he can do that,” she said, noting that other school districts hired retired police officers for the school resource officer position.

Cusick and Police Chief Matt Sentner said that having an actual police officer legally able to make arrests and address other matters is a benefit that would be missing if a non-officer was hired for the position.

The problems on Bellevue’s streets go into those schools, and the problems in the schools come out on Bellevue streets,” Cusick said.

Sentner also said that the position requires a unique individual. Other than Sgt. Matt Lucas, who also works with the schools, there were no other qualified officers in the department, Sentner said.

Council members Linda Woshner and Mark Helbling agreed that the full
cost of an SRO should be carried by the school district.

“If other schools can take care of situations, why can’t Northgate?” Woshner asked. “If they want a particular officer for a particular time period, they should pay for it.”

“Money is not the only thing,” Cusick said.

Council members noted that Avalon Borough has been asked about contributing to the cost of the SRO, as the service benefits students from both towns, but officials there have refused.

Bellevue also currently pays for half of the cost of crossing guards for the schools in the borough, while Avalon discontinued its payments to Northgate several years ago. Avalon’s crossing guards are now paid solely by the school district.

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