Parents want additional SRO funded next school year

A group of parents told the Board of Finance Thursday night that they want to see an additional school resource officer hired in the school district, and they want to be sure that the Board of Education 2018-19 budget plan gets through the approval process without being cut.

On Thursday night, the finance board held a public hearing to get resident input before starting to review the 2018-19 city and school budget requests.

About 35 people attended, which is a bigger crowd than has turned out in recent years at the annual finance board hearing.

The majority who spoke discussed the additional school resource officer, which the school superintendent has requested but will not go through unless $40,000 is added to the city side of the budget.

School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser requested another $40,000 in the 2018-19 school budget to pay for an additional school resource officer. There are four officers now, one at each high school and two split between the three middle schools and The Academy. School officials want to see an SRO for each of the middle schools.

The board has asked for an additional school resource officer for the past few years, but each time the city has not supported the idea by allocating $40,000 on the city side of the budget. The school board pays half the salary and the city the other half.

Susan Krushinsky, a parent and former school board member, said she wasn’t in favor of the SROs when they were first introduced to the schools, but she now sees the value of the SROs. She said relationships develop between students and law enforcement, which is very positive.

The uniformed and armed officers were introduced to the city schools in 2014.

The plan to hire school resource officers came up shortly after the tragic shootings in Newtown and then became the focus of attention during the 2013-14 budget process.

Months after the officers were placed in the schools, they were already getting positive reviews, with officials saying school staff and students were very receptive. At the time, James Richetelli Jr., chief operations officer for the school district, said, “Their impact on enhancing an environment that is inviting, supportive and safe has been felt immediately. We are grateful to them and to the community for supporting the SRO program.”

Resident and parent Kara Flannery agreed that an SRO should be added to the school system, and during Thursday night’s public hearing she said this is the fourth year in a row that the school superintendent has requested the additional position.

“We know the worst can happen, and school safety is not the place to cut corners,” Flannery said.

Resident Gale Uberti talked about the importance of sprucing up the schools.

When the Board of Education voted on the school superintendent’s spending plan this year, the members voted to increase her request by $361,500 to fund additional building projects, and Uberti spoke in favor of that Thursday evening.

“Our aging schools need help,” Uberti said.

“Psychologists have proven that an attractive environment increases learning,” she added.

Jessica DeYoung urged the finance board to approve the school budget, especially in light of the fact that Dr. Feser has announced her retirement in July.

“She led us through difficult times,” DeYoung said, adding that now Milford will be in a state of transition.

Resident Nija Phelps argued that young and old benefit from a good school system, saying “we are an interdependent society.
And resident Kara Flannery said, “There’s a lot of Yankee thrift in this budget,” saying she views the request as reasonable.

Flannery also said “it is unprecedented” that the school board would vote to increase the superintendent’s request, and she said this indicates the board’s, and the community’s, desire to focus on education.

The library
Several residents also talked about the Milford Public Library, not asking for additional funds now but suggesting the board keep an eye on that city service in coming years.

The Milford Public Library is beginning a strategic planning process to guide services for the next three years. The plan will act as a road map for the library as it seeks to meet the needs of Milford residents now and into the future.

Resident Chris Thomas said the board needs to “continue to invest” in the library.

“It’s become a community center, not just a library,” Thomas said.

Resident Augie Harrigan agreed that the library has to remain a priority in Milford. He told the board that someone once commented to him about the library, saying you can tell a lot about a community by the resources it dedicates to its public library.

The person told Harrigan, “I think MIlford can do better.”

The finance board will start reviewing the spending plans now, before voting on a budget and forwarding their plan to the Board of Aldermen for review.

The annual budget plan totals about $210.88 million, which is $5.1 million, or 2.48%, more than the current $205.78 million budget. The mayor said he expects taxes will not increase under this plan.