Findlay City Council will have to make short work of a major budget request if the city is going to partner with the city schools on its safety and security levy.
There’s a sense of urgency to the matter since council’s call on whether to preapprove spending $1.93 million over the next five years for additional police officers has a direct connection to the school district’s five-year, 1.5-mill, safety and security levy.
The property tax issue will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot as Issue 5.
Despite the late hour, council discussions have been limited so far. On Thursday, members met informally for an hour on the proposed city-school partnership, but reached no consensus. The matter begs a decision. Tuesday is the last scheduled council meeting before Election Day.
If the tax issue passes, Mayor Lydia Mihalik pledged earlier this year to contribute city funds to help hire and equip six additional officers to provide security at the city schools. That would cost the city about $750,000 a year, but, under the plan, city schools would provide $350,000 of the cost.
In effect, that would mean the city’s tab for the new officers would be $400,000 annually, or about $2 million over the five-year life of the levy.
Council, which must approve the city budget each year, is now under the gun because it is being asked to sign off on a request before hearings for the 2019 budget have even begun.
The proposed cop-sharing partnership would seem to benefit both the schools and the city. The new hires would spend most of their time at city schools during the school year. Because they would be located throughout the city at different schools during the school day, they could be available for nonschool emergencies as needed. Those same officers could take on more nonschool police duties, as well, during school breaks and holidays when the schools are not in session. Sharing the cost of an officer’s salary, benefits and equipment is a win-win for the city and school district.
Superintendent Ed Kurt has said the $1.2 million raised by the levy each year would be spent on mental health services for district students ($577,000), school resource officers and security personal ($550,000) and on other security measures ($100,000).
The levy issue is important for the school district and the entire community as well.
At the same time, school safety and security needs careful funding consideration since it could have long-term budgeting ramifications. The city, for example, could be left with the full cost of the six officers if the levy isn’t renewed after five years. In another scenario, if council doesn’t agree to the $400,000 annual funding, the school would likely have to rethink how levy dollars will be spent.
Early voting started Wednesday, which adds to the urgency. Certainly some voters will be waiting for council to decide if the city is in or out before they vote. Council’s decision should be made ASAP. Its action could go a long way in determining Issue 5’s fate.