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City to end subsidizing cost of school resource officer

Ferndale Police vehicle file photo (July 25, 2016). Photo: Whatcom News

At Monday’s City Council meeting, a new interlocal agreement between the City of Ferndale and the Ferndale School District regarding the cost of a School Resource Officer (SRO) (also known as School Assigned Officer) provided by the city to the district will be on the consent agenda for approval (see below for the complete draft agreement). This contract seeks to reimburse the city 100% for the 180-day portion of the officer’s salary and benefits when assigned to SRO duties. In the past, only a portion of these costs were being recouped by the city per the interlocal agreements.

The SRO comes from the ranks of Ferndale Police officers and been provided by the city to the district for nearly 20 years.

The district had been asked to compensate the city for part of the salary and benefit costs since the officer remained on the city’s payroll. The officer was also available to perform Ferndale Police Department responsibilities when not doing SRO duties and in the case of emergencies.

The district’s financial responsibility per past agreements is as follows:

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2010 – 2011$47,000
2016 – 2017$59,000
2017 – 2018$61,000
2018 – 2019$63,135

When the latest agreement, beginning September 2018, was presented to the City Council Finance & Administration Committee for approval in November 2018, there was pushback. Councilmembers complained that receiving it so late gave the appearance Mayor Jon Mutchler and city staff were prematurely negotiating agreements before consulting with City Council and it put undue pressure on councilmembers to approve or risk losing the benefits of having an SRO.

It was then pointed out the actual cost to the city for the portion of time the officer was performing SRO duties was actually over $80,000 per year and as much as $20,000 of taxpayer money was being used to subsidize the district’s cost.

The City Council instructed city staff to go back to the district with a revised agreement that compensated the city for 100% of an officer’s 180-day term as an SRO. At the next council meeting, it was learned the district’s response via email was, “To get a request mid fiscal year for such a dramatic change to the cost is not something that we are in a position to accept.”

Under protest, the council approved a 2018-2019 agreement in December of 2018 with the following caveats.

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  • The agreement would only cover 2018-2019 schoolyear (2 years was being requested)
  • The next agreement would be accomplished earlier in 2019
  • The next agreement would require compensating the city 100% for the 180-day portion of the officer’s time spent carrying out SRO duties.

City staff responded this month with a draft agreement for the 2019-2020 schoolyear and it was met with unanimous approval during last Wednesday’s City Council Finance & Administration Committee meeting. “The chief has been in pretty constant contact with the district since we ended our negotiations last year,” City Administrator Jori Burnett noted.

The proposed 2-year interlocal agreement requires the district pay $86,140 for the 2019-2020 schoolyear, an increase of $23,005 over the 2018-2019 agreement.

According to Burnett, “The contract also improves both agencies’ understandings of the role that the SRO and related educational/support efforts will play within the schools.”

If the council approves the agreement during their Monday meeting, it will then be provided to the district for their approval.

Discussion of the school resource officer agreement begins at about 26:00 in the audio record of the meeting.

March 13, 2019 City of Ferndale Finance & Administration Council Committee meeting audio.

One Comment

  1. Ryan Walter March 17, 2019

    Thanks to all those that keep the taxpayer’s interest foremost in mind.

    The taxpayer is THE BOSS. The School District is THE SERVICE PROVIDER that has to deliver the goods at the lowest possible cost to the taxpayer. Simple, ain’t it?

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