The Milford Police Department certainly deserves credit for pushing the case of school resource officers, not only researching and recommending that the city hire them but also finding money in its own budget to help cover the bill.
School officials have said they’d like to have five school resource officers to circulate among the schools. The total cost, including salary and benefits, is estimated at $350,000.
It appears that city officials agree they would like to hire these officers. The only problem is, there isn’t agreement on where the money will come from to pay for the positions.
So far police Chief Keith Mello has identified about $100,000 in savings within the department to help fund the program, suggesting that money from fingerprinting fees, savings in the summer COPSS program and revenue expected to be generated by a new ticketing program can be used to pay for the school police officers.
While the chief has been directed to look for state and federal grants to kick in some funding, he’s stated more than once in the last few months that Milford doesn’t generally qualify for these programs because it is too financially stable compared to other communities.
Mello said he believes the department has an obligation to do what reasonably can be done to make Milford’s schools a safe and comfortable environment for children.
“Our commitment has not and will not waver when it comes to the safety of our children,” he said.
Officials have been tiptoeing around the matter, but the bottom line is that city officials, especially city aldermen, will ultimately have to decide if they are going to increase taxes to pay for police officers to work in the city schools, or cut services in some other area to pay for the positions.
Former alderman Thomas Beirne hit the nail on the head this week when he said residents who wait until the last minute in the budget process to let the aldermen know how they feel about this are waiting too long. City leaders need to know how the public feels now as it begins the final leg of the budget process.
There will be a public hearing April 4 at 7 p.m. at Milford City Hall, and that will be the appropriate time for residents to tell city officials how they feel about funding SROs.