Board desires city police officer over a retired one

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Dunkirk Schools’ Superintendent Dr. James Tracy, far right, discusses school resource officer options with board of education members during Thursday’s meeting at the middle school.

It didn’t go to a formal vote Thursday, but Dunkirk Board of Education members prefer to have a city police officer serving the district over a retired special patrol officer.

During the school board’s regular meeting at the Dunkirk Middle School, Dunkirk Schools’ Superintendent Dr. James Tracy presented the board with two options. In talks with the city and union police, Tracy said a city patrol officer would cost around $94,300 with benefits. The district would pay 75 percent of the cost while the city would cover the other 25 percent.

As for a retired special patrol officer, Tracy said costs would be in the $40,000-$60,000 range with no benefits. Tracy said the city would be the payer of the wage and the training they’d need to receive.

“We end up paying the city exactly what we have offered the resource officer,” Tracy said.

Through a special officer, Tracy said the district has the ability to assign that person to certain buildings at certain times. However, in talks with the PBA, Tracy acknowledged the city would allow the patrol officer to function in a similar manner. Tracy told board members the city and union would need to sit down and agree to change wording to allow the superintendent to have that authority.

While school board members say they want to go with city police over a retired officer, they expressed concern over the cost to the district. Vice President Claudia Szczerbacki questioned the district’s cost with the officer being utilized for a little over 180 days a year. Board Member Ken Kozlowski mentioned that the district should approach the city to discuss paying for the days the officer is used.

“Maybe we could work out a cost by day and see if we can’t get a better price that way,” he said.

Some board members aruged that an officer from the city would be faster than bringing in a retired officer who would need to go through training. Others stated that seeing an officer in a badge would draw respect from students.

President Dave Damico acknowledged the need for a school resource officer. But, he said the district needs to be fiscally responsible too with decreasing transition aid it receives from the state as a result of the NRG closure.

“We have to find a way to sustain this whatever we do,” Damico said. “We’ve got to do something.”

Dunkirk City Council has the final say as they’d need to approve the school resource officer if the school board elects to go that way. During the privilege of the floor, Dunkirk City Councilman Michael Civiletto said council is in favor of a school resource officer from city police. However, he said council hasn’t been approached by school board officials to vote on the matter.

“We’re totally in favor, but we’ve heard nothing,” he said.

Back in 2016, school district officials made a decision to cut the resource officer contract due to costs associated with salary and benefits and the loss of NRG PILOT payments. The school went without a resource officer to begin the 2016-17 school year, and the district is still without one.

Tracy, who came on board during the summer of 2016, began to speak with Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas. Tracy said the two sides have continued discussions. Tracy said he supports both options presented to the board.

“It looks like everyone is willing to make this happen,” Tracy said. “It’s not something we’re letting hang.”