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Greencastle council split over funding for in-school police officer

December 08, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- After more than an hour rehashing a debate over a school resource officer position, the Greencastle Borough Council voted to continue exploring options for hiring the officer without spending borough funds.

Debate over the issue sparked in the Greencastle-Antrim area in June when Greencastle Police Chief John Phillippy applied for two grants to fund the position for up to three years.

Both grants have been denied, but Phillippy said Monday that he is confident the borough has secured stimulus money for the position by way of a diminishing grant.

The majority of council members said in passing Monday that they will not support spending borough money on the position, a change from the consensus in June, according to Councilwoman Michele Emmett.

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In June, the council voted to discuss a cost-sharing plan with the Greencastle-Antrim School District and Antrim Township that would split the cost in thirds after the grant expires, she said.

Phillippy said the grant expected for the position is a four-year diminishing grant that would fund the 75 percent of the position the first year, 50 percent in year two, 25 percent in year three and nothing in year four.

Who would pay for the leftovers is what consumed most of the debate Monday.

Arguing that the borough should carry some of the burden, since the officer would work occasionally for the police department, Councilman Paul Schemel moved to propose splitting the bill with the school district, with the borough paying only three months of the officer's salary.

Schemel stood alone in his position that the borough should pay some of the cost, and his motion died for lack of a second.

Arguing that most if not all the financial responsibility belongs with the school district, Councilman Mark Singer suggested sending a proposal to the district, contingent upon receiving the grant, that would openly discuss funding options.

Emmett reinforced her position that the officer is not needed in the school based on the evidence that has come forth.

"I have asked for that evidence that we need this officer in our schools and I have not seen any," she said. "My main reason I don't support this is based on evidence, but I would not consider this grant unless the school district would pay for it (the officer.)"

"Stimulus money scares me," said Councilman Duane Kinzer. "Our police budget is way out of line as it is."

With opinions on shouldering the estimated $60,601 annual cost for the position divided among council, Kinzer and Emmett opposed Singer's motion. The motion passed 4-2.

Despite changes in position from Council President Charlie Eckstine and Kinzer, who both voted in June in favor of cost sharing options, Singer said he feared that not continuing the discussion would be backpedaling on school safety in favor of saving money.

"My point is that the school district did not prompt this and they should have," Kinzer said in response. "The school district is the only one in a position to properly make the distribution of this cost (to all affected taxpayers)."

Councilman Craig Myers was absent.

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