By LINDA LOBECK
IRON MOUNTAIN - A request from the Iron Mountain Public Schools concerning the school liaison officer was discussed by the Iron Mountain City Council Monday night.
No action was taken and the issue was tabled to allow council members a chance can study the request in more detail.
The school is requesting that the city levy the maximum .25 mills for the school liaison officer, who is currently Sgt. Dave Irwin of the Iron Mountain Police Department.
According to City Manager Jordan Stanchina, the cost of the officer has historically been split equally between the city and school district.
"Although no formal agreement exists, this has been the funding arrangement for approximately 11 years," Stanchina said. "The city currently levies 0.163 mills for its 50 percent share of the school liaison position, which generates $36,495.28."
Stanchina added that this leaves .087 mills that could still be levied, representing $19,479.08 of available funding. The request from the school district is to have the city levy the additional .087 mills available and apply it toward the school's share of the funding.
Since this is a change from previous agreements between the two parties, Stanchina felt it needed to be brought before the council.
Voters had approved levying up to .25 mills by the city to pay for its share of the school liaison position four years ago. The levy was agreed on for five years and this is the final year - with the levy on the July taxes to be used for the 2014-15 school year.
Stanchina said that the school is making this request for budgetary reasons.
Councilman Bob Moraska said that he wasn't prepared to give his answer to the request at Monday's meeting and felt the request should be tabled until the next meeting. He said this would give him and any other council member time to formulate questions they may have about the request.
Mayor Pro-tem Dale Alessandrini said that the voters had already given their approval to levy up to the .25 mills noting that this is the last year - the millage will then expire.
Council member Amanda List agreed that voters had already OK'd this amount to be levied.
She was wondering what the school district would be doing in the future if they could no longer come up with 50 percent of the cost for the liaison's position.
"The millage disappears after July 1 - the funding is gone - it would have to go to a vote of the people again," Stanchina said.
Councilman Bill Revord asked what the school's plan was to keep this position.
Iron Mountain Schools Supt. Tom Jayne, of 701 East C St., spoke to the council about the importance of the position in the schools. To keep the position, he will have to go to the school board, administrators and staff and he would advocate that they keep this position.
"I can't say enough about Officer Irwin - he is such a benefit to the school district. I can only see pluses with having a police officer present in the schools. He helps us in so many ways including providing safety education and being there for the students and staff. He is a needed entity in the school district," Jayne said.
"The costs and how we share these costs are something that the board committee needs to look at going forward including asking the voters to help us. The district is facing a deficit right now and this increase in the millage collected by the city would save us $19,479 next year. It is greatly appreciated for a position that is proactive and positive in the schools," he added.
List asked whether the school district had researched grant monies that could fund this position in the schools especially with the increase of violence in schools across the country.
Jayne said that was a good idea and one that they could look into.
Moraska asked Irwin whether he carries a gun in school.
"Yes and a taser," Irwin said.
Jayne added that he also has his own office to meet with students, parents and staff in at school.
Iron Mountain voters during the general election on Nov. 3, 2009, had OK'd a levy of .25 mill for a period of five years, from 2010-14, for the purpose of providing funds for the school liaison officer. It was estimated that the .25 mill would raise approximately $53,557 when first levied in 2010.
The verbal agreement between the city and school district to share the cost of the position dates back to 2003. For two years during that time, the position was funded for the city's share by the cable franchise fees. With the exception of that time, it has been funded by a levy approved by the voters.
The cost to the school district last year was $46,730 and the city's share was $36,495 with the additional costs of retirement and benefits.
Jayne thanked the council for having this position in place in the schools when he took over as superintendent 2 1/2 years ago.
"I hope that there is an agreement to keep the position in place," he said.
Board member Rick Zolner asked more about what the liaison officer does in the school.
Irwin said that he is in his fifth year as the school liaison officer.
"I'm involved with helping the kids in the school out including different aspects of security, going into the classes and providing education as well as bringing in other people, like the DPW department to talk about safety," he said. "We deal with a lot of bullying situations, which is a big problem with Facebook and other social media. I also serve as a moderator in some of these situations working with the staff. I go out at recess with the kids and school lunch times to be a presence. I try and cover as many areas as I can - I try to be as accessible to help with issues like drugs, criminal complaints, work with the DHS and anything else handed within school."
Irwin added that kids often track him down and tell him about something someone is doing - they share information about something that concerns them.
"I've heard from students about issues like domestic violence at home or something a friend is going through," he said. "I attend as many special events at school a an including sporting events and dances, which has cut down on drinking at dances."
"He's built such wonderful relationships with the students, parents and the community," Jayne said.
Alessandrini agreed noting that both levies put before the voters to pay for this position passed overwhelmingly. "The program speaks for itself."
Linda Lobeck's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.