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NLR wants district to pay for school cops

The North Little Rock City Council on Monday adopted a resolution to ask the city school district for money to help finance the providing of resource officers.

The purpose of school resource officers is to provide enhanced security.

“For approximately 20 years, the city has provided (previously eight, now 5-6) resource officers during the nine-month school year for North Little Rock High School/East and West Campus, Lakewood Middle School, Ridge Road Middle School, Poplar Street Middle School and North Little Rock (Argenta) Academy, at an annual cost of up to $400,000 (based on 2008 actual figure),” reads the resolution. “Whereas with rising costs and reduced revenues, it is necessary that the city assess the costs of providing resource officers for the North Little Rock School District and commence negotiations for reimbursement of the expense, or a portion thereof, by the school district to the city.”

Alderwoman Linda Robinson sponsored the legislation, saying the city needs help in providing the service.

“This is not to get rid of the public resource officers,” Robinson said. “This program has been around for 20 years and the city of North Little Rock has paid 100 percent.”

Robinson said the legislation would authorize Mayor Joe Smith to sit down with the school district and begin negotiations.

“This is due to rising costs and reduced revenues,” Robinson said. “North Little Rock is the only city in the state of Arkansas that is paying 100 percent of the cost for school resource officers.”

The resolution details several areas where the city has provided the school district financial support over the years, including:

• Funding for renovations and repairs to the track and field at the NLRHS West Campus;

• Financial aid toward the construction costs of a new training and concession facility at the high school’s West stadium;

• Assistance for travel expenses incurred for student group activities/appearances;

• Funding for North Little Rock Television;

• Funding a portion of the cost for police officers at school events such as football, basketball, soccer, and activities such as graduations, dances, etc.;

• Submitting grant applications through the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department’s Safe Routes to Schools Program for the benefit of the school district;

• Constructing sidewalk and drainage improvements at the following schools: Lakewood, Pike View, Poplar Street Middle School, Crestwood, Lakewood Elementary, Pike View, and North Little Rock East Campus;

• Lobbying and legislative support for the school district on issues such as a waiver of state sales tax on supplies purchased for students at the beginning of the school year.

Robinson said she has had phone calls asking her why the city is paying the entire cost, saying some constituents have expressed the desire for more patrolmen on the streets.

Robinson said the city last October determined that over 60 percent of the city’s budget goes toward uniformed officers with 30 percent earmarked for operating the rest of the city government.

“What I was told in October was if we increased anything in uniform officers we would have to move money from the 30 percent, which may result in layoffs for city employees,” Robinson said.

Alderwoman Debi Ross seconded Robinson’s motion to support the resolution, but added she does not want to do away with one resource officer.

“Our job in the city council is budgetary and we have to look at all of the money because it is the people’s money,” Ross said.

Alderman Bruce Foutch added, “We or the school district are under no obligation to make any changes with this resolution. We are asking to sit down, talk with the school district, and negotiate.”

Alderwoman Beth White asked City Legal Counsel Matt Fleming if the resolution which change any portion of the current resource officer program. Fleming told White the resolution changes nothing with respect to the current program.

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