Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Cheney School District to add safety position

Director of safety would be district employee; school resource officer contract with city retained

 

November 30, 2017



Cheney schools will soon get an increase in the number of personnel dedicated to the security of its students. In fact, it will double.

Superintendent Rob Roettger told the school board at its Nov. 15 meeting that officials at the district and the Cheney Police Department have been discussing changes to the school resource officer (SRO) contract that would open the way for the creation of a director of safety position. The director would be a school district employee, while the SRO position would remain with the city.

Cheney Police Chief John Hensley said current SRO Sgt. Kelly Hembach is scheduled to retire on Dec. 31, and would then subsequently move into the new director of safety position. Hembach has been the SRO since 2011, and with the department since 2002, returning after serving 12 years as a deputy for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

Roettger said it hadn’t been determined yet who the new SRO would be, but said it would likely be a commissioned officer. Hembach will have a limited commission as the director.

Roettger cited not just the number of schools in the district, 10 including Three Springs High School and the Homeworks program at Needham Hill, but the geographic spread of those schools. Besides Needham Hill and four schools in Cheney, the district has three schools located in the Fairways/Windsor Crossing area of the West Plains and one school in Airway Heights.

The SRO would be based in Cheney at the high school, with the director of safety stationed at another school but being more mobile. Roettger said there would likely be a cost increase to district, which he estimated between $35,000–$40,000.

The current contract, which runs to Aug. 31, 2018, calls for the city to be compensated $129,921 for the SRO. The district is also responsible for providing fuel and necessary maintenance to the officer’s vehicle.

“We’ve been thinking and working on this for quite awhile,” Roettger told the board

In a Nov. 27 interview, Roettger said the change would go into effect immediately upon Hembach’s retirement, with a search being undertaken for a replacement SRO.

Also at the Nov. 15 meeting, the board received an overview of how the next maintenance and operations levy would operate under changes to K-12 education passed by the state Legislature in June. The new laws have the state increasing its share of property taxes in order to conform to a court order to provide more for basic education.

Under the new law, the state will raise its rate to $2.86 per $1,000 of assessed valuation in 2018 from the current $2 per $1,000. Subsequently, beginning in 2019, local levy rates will be limited to $1.50 per assessed valuation or $2,500 per student, whichever is the lesser amount.

Director of Finance Kassidy Probert said the current local rate originally agreed to by voters in the last year of the current three-year levy is $2.87 per $1,000 of assessed value. Combining that with the state increase bumps the upcoming levy to $5.73 per $1,000 instead of the original $4.87.

“We will see an increase in 2018 due to the intersection of the new law and the old levy,” Probert said.

That will decrease under the next levy as Cheney’s amount drops to $1.50 per $1,000. The proposed levy would allow the district to collect $5.8 million in 2019, $6.4 million in 2020 and $7 million in 2021. By contrast, the 2015 levy allowed for collections of $9.3 million in 2016, $9.5 in 2017 and $9.7 million in 2017.

In a separate agenda item, the board unanimously approved a resolution certifying the 2018 levy collection amount of $9.7 million, along with a debt service collection of $7,129,770.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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