School security, capital requests on meeting's agenda

A Town Meeting next Wednesday, Feb. 13, will make decisions on school security requests, including building enhancements and police presence at the elementary and middle schools.

Also on the agenda are capital requests for the town’s lower schools. The meeting is at the Redding Community Center at 7:30 p.m.

The total amount taxpayers are asked to approve through four separate votes for school-related security is $322,620. The requests were prompted after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012, when 20 children and six adults were killed.

The Redding school board is requesting a full-time school resource officer (SRO) who would be shared between the schools, and through School Superintendent Bernard Josefsberg, “any additional [police] personnel that may be necessary.

An appropriation of $58,030 is requested to provide an SRO from Jan. 22 through June 30, or four months, at a cost of $29,015, and to provide a new officer whose duties, for four months, would include the role of youth officer, also at a cost of $29,105.

The requested amount to provide for police overtime in the schools from Jan. 22 to the end of the school year is $101,904.

This appropriation is for the overtime that would be incurred by moving two police officers from their current patrol posts to the schools. Police Chief Douglas Fuchs said he has two officers already trained as SROs. One would be assigned to the schools but would only be in one school at a time. Another officer would provide police presence at the other school.

A third request is for an appropriation to cover police overtime incurred from Dec. 14, 2012, through Jan. 20, 2013. This overtime  resulted from helping officers in Newtown from Dec. 14 though Jan. 6 and primarily for providing police presence at the elementary and middle schools.

The Board of Finance is recommending that all three expenditures involving personnel, if approved, come from the town’s unassigned fund balance.

The money for physical improvements to the schools, including the installation of surveillance cameras, totals $135,000. The finance board is recommending the money come from the town’s capital non-recurring reserve fund.

First Selectman Natalie Ketcham said on Monday that there would be no financial impact from these proposals because taxes would not go up as a result of their approval.

“We have on hand all of the money required for these expenditures,” she said. The town’s unassigned fund balance is $6.4 million, said Ms. Ketcham, and there is more than $1 million in the capital non-recurring reserve fund.

If the additional police officers are approved till the end of the year, she said, they will be in the selectmen’s operating budget for the next fiscal year.

“They would increase our budget by $174,000, or 0.4% of the overall town budget this fiscal year,” Ms. Ketcham said.

Ms. Ketcham said the Board of Selectmen believes the security requests “are a reasonable approach, and the Board of Finance chose the funding mechanism that would not raise taxes to complement it.”

Before the Newtown tragedy, Chief Fuchs said he had planned to ask for two police officers in his budget for fiscal 2013-14  — one to bring the department to its full authorized complement of 16 and one to serve as a part-time SRO and part-time investigator.

Now the request is for a full-time SRO, which would be a new position, and an officer who would serve part-time as a youth officer and part-time as an investigator for the department, saving on overtime for this investigative work.

Besides his duties at the school, the SRO would serve the community with additional patrols in and around summer camp and summer school programs as well as other Park & Rec. summer programs. The SRO would provide supplemental patrol when school is not in session to offset police overtime needs.

A full presentation on the security-related requests will be made at the Town Meeting.

Capital requests

The Town Meeting will also be asked to vote separately on five capital requests from the Redding school board for this fiscal year. The combined requests total $534,000. The finance board is recommending that approved requests be funded using short-term borrowing pending long-term financing.

The requests include $45,000 for Redding Elementary School playground improvements and $165,000 to complete a bathroom upgrade project.

For the middle school, $135,000 is requested for a bathroom upgrade, $84,000 for the first phase of a locker replacement project, $60,000 to renovate the woodshop into a combined tech room, and $45,000 for roof repairs.

The school board will provide information on each request at the meeting.

The Town Meeting will additionally be asked to accept Costa Lane as a town road, pending recommendation from the Planning Commission.

The joint Boards of Selectmen and Finance meeting where the security items and capital requests were made will be shown on Cablevision Channel 79.

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