CARLSBAD — Because of school budget cuts, the Carlsbad Unified School District funding challenges forced the city of Carlsbad to face future decisions about the SRO (School Resource Officer) Program.
While staff offered some options to the city council, which included decreasing school resource officers from three to one, or discontinuing the program altogether, the city chose to shoulder the costs to keep the program going as is.
“CUSD currently provides half of the funding for three SROs for nine months of the year,” said Chuck McBride, finance director at the City of Carlsbad. “The City of Carlsbad provides the other half of the funding from the General Fund. Due to budget constraints, CUSD will be reducing this commitment to fund only half of one SRO for nine months.”
Despite the reduced funding from the school district, McBride said, the council chose to continue funding the three school resource officers.
City councilmember, Keith Blackburn, leaned on Carlsbad Police Chief Gary Morrison for guidance in the decision making process during the meeting.
“It’s my understanding that the school resource officer has a ton of advantages over a beat officer handling calls at the schools,” said Blackburn, adding how these officers know their way around the schools and the kids and families who may need more attention get it.
Morrison nodded in agreement.
“My concern is our responsibility is to provide law enforcement services to the schools whether they pay for a part of it or don’t pay for a part of it. If we don’t continue school resource officers or something similar like officers assigned to those schools, then they will be assigned to beats and whenever a school has a need for an officer, whichever beat unit is available, they will get a random, different officer,” Blackburn said. “It also takes the officer off that particular beat and now that beat is uncovered and they are spending their time at the schools.”
Morrison verbally agreed.
Blackburn confirmed with Morrison that if they pay for the school resource officers, if necessary, they can be pulled out of the schools onto a beat if additional officer backup assistance is needed.
“Then it would be my recommendation, that we keep the three school resource officers assigned to the schools and pick up the tab for that and we use them elsewhere if we need them,” Blackburn said.
McBride said that the city council wanted to continue to support schools with this important program, which provides a cooperative approach to law enforcement at the schools, with police officers working closely with school staff and students in order to identify and address issues before they escalate.
“Under this option, one SRO will be dedicated to CUSD and the other two SROs will divide their time between CUSD and San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) at the discretion of the Police Department,” McBride said. “The cost is approximately $150,000, of which $100,000 will be provided from the city’s General Fund.”
Although council member Mark Packard agreed with the others, he did share his concern. For Packard, historically, whenever the city takes over financial responsibility for something which is “temporary” due to state budget cuts, those financial responsibilities are hardly ever returned back to the original entity when financial matters improve.
Packard wanted to be certain there was a way to define or monitor things. Staff told him that this topic would be discussed in ongoing meetings between city and school staff.