Trustees gave the go-ahead Feb. 10 to continuing a study of whether the village should share costs of a school resource officer with the high school. The village provides an officer one day a week at no charge to the school.
School officials proposed a cost-sharing arrangement in the fall, similar to LT’s partnership to provide a school resource officer with the village of Western Springs for the past 15 years. Each pays half of the officer’s cost.
The increased police presence is sought to improve safety and security, as well as build positive relationships and improve communication with students and parents, according to a letter from Superintendent Timothy Kilrea.
Although specifics of the proposal have to be nailed down, staff members suggested the village should budget $25,000 of the cost of providing a full-time officer and LT would contribute the remainder.
Salary and benefits of a newly hired police officer are $96,255; similar costs for an experienced officer are $143,044.
The village’s share for the position could be financed through a proposed 1 percent food and beverage tax under consideration, which would generate $350,000 and be used to cover several areas of projected budget shortfalls.
The position is not envisioned as filling a vacancy left open since 2008 due to cost containment measures, staff members said.
Police Chief Michael Holub said the officer filling the position would work at the north campus during the school year and be available during peak summer months to patrol the busy central business district. The officer also could fill in on other tasks as assigned outside the school year.
“The position is not as a security officer. He would be there to do law enforcement and make sure the campus is safe collaborating with the school district in matters like evacuating the building and responding to emergencies,” Holub said.
Simply put, the officer would be involved in criminal matters, such as drug possession, rather than intervening with a tardy or unruly student, the chief said.
The position also is designed to develop relationships with students and families and improve the flow of communications, so students might feel comfortable alerting police to a particular situation, Holub said.
“This would not be hiring a new police officer. We would like someone with experience in the community or a current or past investigator,” he said. “The choice would be made with both the school and the Police Department agreeing.”
Holub conceded the effectiveness might be difficult to measure, as with many crime prevention initiatives. But a likely indicator would be a decrease in the number of calls centered around the high school, he said.
Trustees Mark Langan, Mark Kuchler and Dave McCarty expressed support for further talks on the position and considering it for the 2014-15 budget, as long as the cost is capped at $25,000. Further budget talks are scheduled in March.
Trustee Jeff Nowak recused himself from the discussion because his law firm does work for the high school. Trustee Bill Holder was absent.
But Trustee Jim Palermo said he couldn’t support the proposal without more information. He asked to know the functions and effectiveness of the school resource officer at the LT South Campus in Western Springs, and how the north campus would benefit.