By DENISE GRANT
Findlay City Council met informally Thursday to discuss whether it will support hiring six additional police officers as part of a plan to put resource officers in the city’s school buildings.
Council stopped short of a vote of support during the one-hour meeting, with the topic likely to be readdressed at Tuesday’s regular meeting. The regular meeting will be at 7 p.m. in council chambers at the Findlay Municipal Building.
It will be council’s last meeting before Election Day.
Several school officials attended Thursday’s meeting, including Findlay Superintendent Ed Kurt.
Findlay School District is seeking a five-year, 1.5-mill safety and security levy on the Nov. 6 ballot. If it passes, the district would receive $1.2 million annually to be spent on resource officers, safety and surveillance training, equipment and mental health.
Should the levy pass, Mayor Lydia Mihalik has pledged to contribute money, starting with the city’s 2019 budget, to help hire the six additional officers for the schools. However, it is ultimately up to council to approve the city budget, and there has been limited public discussion by council members about the plan.
Budget hearings for the 2019 city budget get underway in December.
Officials said Thursday it would cost about $750,000 a year to hire and equip six officers. Under the plan, the schools would pay about $350,000 per year to the city.
City Safety Director Paul Schmelzer said Thursday it would likely cost the city an average of about $400,000 per year, or $1.93 million over the five-year life of the school levy, to hire and equip the six officers.
While the goal is provide more security for the schools, Schmelzer said it’s also a good deal for the city.
“We’re bringing on six people for half the price,” he said.
A police presence in the city’s school buildings would also mean that officers would routinely be stationed throughout the city during the day, and available if needed for emergencies outside of the school buildings.
The officers would also be available to the city when school is not in session, on snow days, holidays or during summer break.
On Thursday, Councilmen John Harrington, R-5, and Grant Russel, R-At-Large, said they would support the city hiring the resource officers.
Councilman Tim Watson, R-7, said he was concerned about the atmosphere the added security would create in the schools, with armed officers and metal detectors at the doors. He likened it to a prison.
However, school officials said Findlay police officers are already visible and welcomed by the schools. They said an officer on site can help calm situations when parents show up at the school angry over custody issues, for example.
Kurt said Findlay police are also notifying the schools when a child’s family has been involved with law enforcement.
Kurt said most of the money generated by the levy, about $577,000 per year, would be spent on improving mental health services for the city’s schoolchildren. About $550,000 a year would be spent on school resource officers and security personnel. The balance, about $100,000, would be spent on added security measures like metal detectors and increased surveillance.