Lakota to pay West Chester for 3 school resource officers

Under the agreement, which was approved by 2-to-1 by trustees Tuesday, Lakota agrees to compensate the township 100 percent for the days the officers are assigned as a school resource officer, which is about 180 working days of the year, said Judi Boyko, the township’s administrator.

Lakota’s arrangement with the township means 58 percent or nearly two-thirds of each officer’s salary and benefits will be covered by the district, Boyko said. The township and school district now split the cost for those items.

“This will actually help our (police) levy, help stretch it,” said Trustee President George Lang.

One school resource officer would be predominantly assigned to Lakota West High School, the second to Lakota West Freshman Building and the third to to the junior high and a rotation of some of the elementary schools based on demand, Boyko said.

The school district is increasing the amount of school resource officers districtwide from three to 10 as part of a plan to increase school security if voters approved a 5.5-mill continuing combination levy last November.

The addition of three SROs by West Chester Twp. will bring its total staffing of the school district to five, according to Randy Oppenheimer, spokesman for the school district.

An agreement between Lakota and the Butler County Sheriff’s Office to provide an additional four SROs will bring its total staffing to five, as well.

Trustee Lee Wong asked if the township could have worked out a better deal with Lakota so that the patrol cars, maintenance and the cost of gasoline would have been paid for, as well.

“It’s only the personnel and only because we use those vehicles … in other activities in the township so charging them for that cost we didn’t think was … reasonably fair,” Boyko said.

Wong said he voted against the measure because township police officers have “plenty to do in the township” other than be in the schools.

He also objected to the police department using its patrols cars and uniforms while carrying out school resource officer responsibilities.

“There are a lot of things that are not covered here,” Wong said. “And also response time to our community when an officer is tied up in the school. We have break-ins, burglary. I do not want to take away that (police) service.”

Boyko said before bring the matter to the board of trustees, she specifically checked with Police Chief Erik Niehaus to ensure that adding a third officer would not deter or diminish the department’s patrol activities

“He promotes this program because of the tremendous value and the opportunity to engage and foster cooperation with these students,” said Boyko, who noted that school-age children likely account for more than 50 percent of the township’s population. “Not only is he developing these relationships with these students but he’s going beyond that in developing relationships with parents, with staff, which touches a whole other demographic of our community.”

The township will bring a similar agreement before trustees prior to the 2014-2015 school year “with the terms generally being the same but the cost assigned being different,” Boyko said.

The agreement between Lakota and the sheriff’s office has been worked out and is in the process of formal approval, Oppenheimer said.

“We pay for the sheriff’s deputies on an hourly basis, so the issue of partial-year payment doesn’t arise,” he said.

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