An attempt by the City of El Cerrito to secure more favorable terms in funding city police officers assigned to El Cerrito High School and Portola Middle School was rejected by the West Contra Costa Unified School District, according to a report from the police department.
As a result, the City Council is being asked to consider at its Tuesday meeting a contract that continues the previous level of funding, which the police department says does not cover all the city's costs.
Approval of the contract, which was supposed to have been in place on July 1, when the last contract expired, was delayed because the city and the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) could not agree on the terms.
The city assigns two officers full-time to the high school and one officer full-time to the middle school. They are designated "School Resource Officers" (SROs). The presence of the officers at the schools has been enthusiastically welcomed by both sides, who see a significant improvement in security and the learning environment.
In the past, the district allocated $420,000 per year to cover the officers' salaries on a one-year contract and said it would be willing to agree to the same terms this school year.
Police Chief Sylvia Moir told the council in June that the $420,000 figure was what it took to support three officers a few years ago, and that the city responded with a request closer to the cost for this year, asking the district to pay $470,000. She also said the city asked for a three-year contract.
However, she told the council in June, schools Superintendent Bruce Harter was concerned about the continued uncertainty of school funding, which hinges to a subtantial degree on the outcome of proposed tax measures in the November election.
The report submitted by Moir and police Capt. Michael Regan for Tuesday's council packet says, "The WCCUSD refused to enter into the agreement as proposed by the Chief of Police and under the terms of the agreement presented at City Council on June 19, 2012. The WCCUSD held firm that the contract could not exceed a one-year term, and the reimbursed rate could not exceed $420,000 annually."
The full cost of top-step police officer in the current fiscal year is $179,409, the report from Moir and Regan says. The agreement also doesn't cover the costs of a fully equipped police car (more than $60,000) or laptops, tablets, additional portable radios or cell phones, the report says.
The report nevertheless asks the council to approve the agreement.
"Since the inception of the SRO program, the feedback has been tremendously positive and the increased security in and around the schools is measurable," the report says. "The SRO's are constantly praised by members of the community, school administration, and students. The program has made a true difference to the City and School. Even though the City,does not recover the full costs associated with funding the program, the investment by the City towards this effort is needed and will have a positive impact on the community."
The report is attached to this article.