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Published: 8/29/2007

Money woes to reduce police in Bedford, Genoa, Oregon districts

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
AND ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

As school districts' pockets continue to get lighter, officials with three local districts have been forced to make tough decisions about one program that focuses on safety, security, and keeping students off drugs.

Officials with the Bedford, Genoa, and Oregon school districts recently have grappled with finding ways to continue funding school resource/liaison officers - police officers assigned to school districts to promote safety, handle security issues, and teach Drug Abuse Resistance Education.

But because of funding issues, there soon may be one fewer officer patrolling Bedford Public Schools. There will no longer be an officer assigned to Genoa Area Local Schools, and Oregon City Schools will cut one officer.

In Bedford Township, Monroe County sheriff's deputies Randy Krupp and Randy Sehl have been rallying to keep their posts as liaison officers at Bedford Public Schools.

But it is likely the district may decide enhanced technology alone could provide adequate security services at less cost.

The board recently agreed to apply for a grant to install security cameras at the high school and bus garage.

The board mentioned the need for permanent security both because of the everyday issue of catching or deterring vandals and because of the likelihood of fewer liaison officers in the future.

School administrators have indicated that by the end of the school year, they probably will cut one liaison position because of lack of funding.

Deputy Sehl's salary is paid for through a state fund that will expire in March.

Though board members agreed they would keep Deputy Sehl if state funds increased, Bedford, like most Monroe County districts, predicted in its 2007-08 budget that state funds would remain steady next year.

In Ottawa County, the 2007-08 school year is the first in four years that an officer won't be a constant presence in Genoa schools, Superintendent Dennis Mock said.

Clay Township police Officer Bill Schutz had been a familiar face in the district's high school and middle school since 2004.

"It was just a face that our students could connect with," Mr. Mock said.

But he was noticeably absent from the school hallways when students came back to school last week.

He's been reassigned to road patrol because the grant that funded his salary and benefits expired in January, and the police department was unable to find another grant to take its place, Clay Township Police Chief Roger Schultze said.

Though the district spent more than $17,000 to keep him through the second semester of the 2006-07 school year, members did not have the extra money to pay for the position for the upcoming school year, Mr. Mock said.

"We don't have the money to facilitate the program," he said. "As with most grants, when the money dries up, a lot of organizations can't fund them on their own."

This means there also will be no one to continue teaching the DARE program.

"We're still looking at other alternatives for funding," Chief Schultze said.

"The big loss for us is ... the contact between juveniles and police, which was a major thing and a good thing for us," he said.

In Lucas County, one patrolman will help teach the DARE curriculum at the middle-school level in the Oregon City School District now that just one officer will divide his time between the district's two middle schools.

Oregon schools will have one fewer school resource officer this year now that the city will fully finance the program, Oregon Administrator Ken Filipiak said.

In 2003, the city agreed to pay for two-thirds of the program's costs with the district picking up the remaining third to put one officer at the district's high school and one at each of its two middle schools, Mr. Filipiak said.

But he said district officials recently asked the city to be relieved of their contribution toward the program because of its financial situation, and city officials accommodated their request.

This means one officer will continue to be assigned to Clay High School and another officer will divide his time between the district's two middle schools - Fassett and Eisenhower.

"We're working with them," Mr. Filipiak said, "and recognizing that it's hard to come up with extra money."



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