REDDING, Conn. — The town has approved $322,619.71 for school security costs, with a special town meeting to be held Feb. 13 for residents to vote on whether to approve the expenditures.
The spending would include $58,030 for two new police officers, including a school resource officer for Redding Elementary School and John Read Middle School that was requested by the Board of Education after the school shootings in Newtown . The money would pay their salaries from March 1 to June 30, the end of the school year.
The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance also approved $135,000 in school building security upgrades, which would include enhancements to school entrances and surveillance equipment.
The expenditures wouldn't increase taxes, because the money would come from the Unassigned Fund Balance and Capital and Non-Recurring Expenses, according to First Selectman Natalie Ketcham. The fund balance has $6.5 million and the capital expenses has more than $1 million, she said.
The school resource officer position would likely be reinstated, because Redding had one from 2005 until a year ago, when police staffing dropped and the position was terminated, Ketcham said. The funding calls for a full-time resource officer and a second officer who would fill in when the resource officer was at the other school, she said.
The resource officer is specially trained to work with students and staff “and gives police presence true value in the school system,” Ketcham said. “The officer is more than a security guard.”
The funding must be approved by residents at the town meeting, which will utilize a voice vote.
Ketcham thinks approval will be granted, because “the Board of Education heard from parents who wanted the school system to focus on a SRO,” she said. “But the voters have to authorize us to spend the money. And if they turn it down, there will be no police presence in the schools.”
More than $27,000 would pay for police overtime for assistance given in Newtown and at Redding Elementary School and John Read Middle School after the December shootings. “So if that's voted down, it would be a problem, because it’s already incurred,” Ketcham said.
The town meeting for the vote on the school funding will be held at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at the Redding Community Center.