Joint Meeting Between Anchorage Assembly and School Board Heat Up Over School Resource Officer Funding

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – Members of the Anchorage Assembly are still debating who should take responsibility for funding school resource officers in the Anchorage School District, and the district superintendent said Friday that she felt like she was being attacked by some members of the assembly.

On Friday, a joint meeting between the assembly and the Anchorage school board began as usual, but things got contentious and a little heated when assemblyman Forrest Dunbar asked Superintendent Deena Bishop why the district had offered to fund the school resource officer program in their preliminaries. budget.

The school board voted in February to fund 75% of the program going forward when it passed the district’s draft fiscal year 2023 budget.

“Why did you feel that you had to transfer a large part of these costs into your budget?” Dunbar asked. “…We funded it. Then we overrode the mayor’s veto. I think this is an indication that there is strong support on the appropriate body in the municipality to support ORS and not fire police officers.

He added that by presenting the draft budget like he did to the school board, it “seems” they are putting them in a situation “where they have to be the bad guys and take it out of there.” Dunbar said he thinks the municipality should have continued to take responsibility.

Bishop told Dunbar and assembly members that the district had offered to fund a significant portion of the program because they weren’t convinced the municipality would, based on some previous comments from assembly members. meeting, and taking into account that the fiscal year of the district begins on July 1 and the total financial contribution of the city expires on June 30.

“It wasn’t a risk I wanted to take given the financial situation we’re in this year with funds,” Bishop said.

Moving into a new school year, Bishop said “leaving it to chance” was not a risk she wanted to take with the program.

Assemblyman Austin Quinn-Davidson blamed the lack of trust on the assembly, and Mayor Dave Bronson vetoed who would fund the program.

Bronson first proposed transferring 75% of financial responsibility to the district as part of his proposed city budget last year. When passing the city budget in November, the assembly elected to restore full city funding for the program, and school officers were funded by the municipality for the remainder of that school year.

Bronson vetoed several items in the city budget, which would have reduced this year’s school resource officer funding to a 25-75 split, but the assembly overruled those vetoes.

“There’s a lot of revisionist history going on here when the mayor and others show up and say, ‘We support the school resource officers,'” Quinn-Davidson said. “Show me your values ​​and put them in your budget.”

School board president Margo Bellamy added that she felt the school district had the support of the congregation, but felt “conflicted” during the draft budget vote.

“I don’t know if I mean I can’t count on it, but building that budget, I wasn’t really comfortable counting on it,” Bellamy said.

Assembly Vice President Chris Constant said he was disappointed with the board’s decision to fund the school resource officer program and was unsure how the assembly could have made its support more clear. The assembly overruled the mayor’s veto 9-2.

Assemblyman Jamie Allard, who attended the meeting by telephone, said that since the officers work at the school, in order for the district to take ownership of the program, they are the ones who need to fund it.

At the meeting, Bishop said she felt some members of the assembly were politicizing the situation and attacking her for the council’s decision. However, she said there was still time for the assembly to prove that they were committed to funding the program.

“If the assembly shares their support for the SRO program, we will see that in their tax bill,” Bishop said. “They can certainly provide the funds outside of operational funds to pay for ORS.”

Bishop said the school resource officer program will cost the school district $2.3 million over the next fiscal year. The money comes from its operating budget.

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