School budget plan includes money for increased security

Milford's schools are beefing up security in a post Sandy Hook environment, asking for almost $200,000 in the 2015-16 budget to pay for added security.

When School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser presented her proposed budget for 2015-16 earlier this week, she asked for money to create a new position within the school district — a security coordinator — as well as to hire greeters for the middle schools and two additional school resource officers.

Security coordinator

The security coordinator would oversee security in all of the city's 14 schools and would come at a price tag of $70,000.

“Security in all school systems across the state has risen to new heights post Sandy Hook and other tragedies and threats to schools across the nation,” Dr. Feser wrote in her budget presentation. “The state has now mandated safety committees be in place in each school, and requires documentation and reporting of incidents.”

She said the new security coordinator will work with the Milford Police Department, ensure compliance with state security mandates, oversee crisis response plans and drills, organize yearly training for district employees, and handle building and infrastructure improvements.

The person will also plan for future improvements required by the State School Safety Infrastructure Council.

“Both the District Safety and Security Working Group and the chief of police  recommend this position,” Feser said.

The security coordinator would be employed solely by the Board of Education, unlike the school resource officers who work for the police department within the city schools. The school board and police department split their salaries.

School resource officers

Today there are four school resource officers (SROs) — uniformed and armed officers who work in the schools. There is one at each high school, plus one that splits time between West Shore Middle School and The Academy, and the other who splits time between East Shore Middle School and Harborside. Feser said she wants one more school resource officer for the middle schools and an officer to travel between the elementary schools.

“The four SROs currently serving the middle and high schools make an invaluable contribution to the safety of students and to the school climate,” Feser said.

She is requesting $75,000 in her budget proposal to cover the two additional officers, and noted that hiring them would be contingent on the police department's budget supplying the other half of their salaries.

Greeters

Also to address safety and security, Feser wants to add three greeters to the middle schools for a total cost of $49,500. There are greeters in the elementary schools, and Feser said they have helped “immensely” in making the schools inviting, making sure visitors are signed in and making sure that someone knows why the visitor is there.

“The desire is to put a dedicated person at the front door who will provide a presence and a set of eyes to meet/greet each person entering the school,” Feser said in her proposal. “The middle schools are the only schools in the system, except The Academy, that do not have either a greeter or a security guard.”

The total proposed spending plan for the schools for 2015-16 stands at $91.17 million, up 2.19% from the current $89.21 million budget.

Monday was the first real public step in a long budget process, when Feser presented her budget request to the Board of Education. Next, the school board will hold two workshops this week — Wednesday (tonight) and Thursday at 7 p.m., and may vote as early as Wednesday, Jan. 21, on whether to back Feser's proposal or make adjustments to it.

After the school board adopts a budget plan, that plan goes to the Board of Finance in February for review and then to the Board of Aldermen in April, in preparation for adopting a new city/school budget mid-May.