PHS may lose its police officer: Tight budgets put school district position at risk

PRESCOTT — A longtime school resource officer program at Prescott High School may be in jeopardy for the 2017-18 school year given budget constraints for both the Police Department and the school district.

The Prescott Unified School District Governing Board on Tuesday night unanimously ratified an inter-governmental agency agreement between the board and the Police Department for the school resource officer Bill Wolf, a sworn, certified police officer in Prescott, whose position is now paid for by the Police Department. The memorandum of understanding between the two agencies specifies that the cost for this officer is $82,789.

Superintendent Joe Howard said this agreement that has not been updated in many years extends through the end of this school year. But there is funding uncertainty for the coming year given city and school financial resources.

The school resource officer serves as not only security, but as an educational law enforcement resource for students, staff and parents.

Howard and Police Department officials said there is an effort to secure grant funds to continue this well-respected and desirable program, but Howard was clear grants for this program are nationally competitive so there is no guarantee the application for those dollars will be approved.

Given the district’s tough budget choices for the coming year, as it has been in previous years, Howard said the board will have to determine where this position fits into its priorities.

“The city is looking at their options and we’ll have to look at our funding,” Howard said. “I don’t know how if we can fund it. I hope the grant piece comes through, but it is very competitive.”

The Governing Board will likely be discussing budget priorities and issues at its all-day Feb. 3 board retreat that is to be scheduled at both the high school and at the Washington Traditional School.

Police Department Deputy Chief Amy Bonney said the school resource program at the high school has existed for at least 12 years, and prior to that she and Howard said the program also included officers at Mile High and Granite Mountain middle schools.

Throughout the time the district has had these officers in the schools, the Police Department has covered those costs, Bonney said.

“The position has allowed our agency an opportunity to reach a segment of our population, specifically our students and young people that are so critically important to all of us in this community,” Bonney said. “While we recognize the importance and value of this program both to the Police Department and our community, the fact remains that we do need to seek additional funding for this position that is separate from the Police Department/general fund.”

Bonney and Howard said the two agencies have had several meetings about this matter to seek “creative and fiscally responsible funding sources for this position.”

“We will continue to look for funding into the future, however we’ll be looking at this position, and the costs and benefits associated with it, as we work with city leaders to craft our upcoming budget,” Bonney said.