Members of Milton’s school and selectboards convened a joint meeting Monday night, the first one since the governing bodies finalized a shared services agreement aimed at finding efficiencies.
The agenda covered shared auditing services, a school capital plan and the possibility of hiring another school resource police officer for additional safety and education.
Most were talking points rather than action items, with only the auditing decision coming to a formal vote.
The boards approved hiring Sullivan Powers & Company, the only auditors that responded to the joint request for proposals. The contract will cost the town $27,000 in fiscal year 2018 and the school $21,600; the costs increase over the life of the three-year agreement that comes with a two-year extension.
The longest discussion regarded the district’s desire for an additional SRO, an idea that surfaced at a school safety forum after the Parkland, Fla. mass shooting.
Superintendent Ann Bradshaw said she was surprised to learn “it’s very hard to hire a police officer in Vermont,” and that a second SRO wouldn’t be on duty until July 2019 since this summer’s police academy is full.
Bradshaw said to fill the gap, the school is interested in hiring an officer for a special detail during the school day. The district tested this during a week when outgoing SRO Sgt. Scott Philbrook was away, paying the substitute a $60 hourly rate to monitor the schools.
A contract like this, paid by the school, could amount to $74,000, essentially equal to the district’s portion of an SRO’s salary and benefits, she said.
Selectboard vice-chairman Ken Nolan wondered whether “supersizing” contracted services could create staffing issues. Laroche said the department’s No. 1 priority is patrolling the town, not filling special details, particularly since the PD is down an officer.
School board chairman Mike Joseph asked about recruitment and suggested the PD advertise specifically for an SRO. Perhaps applicants would be certified officers from other agencies – thereby bypassing the academy – or retired cops who still want to be active, he said.
Selectboard chairman Darren Adams suggested Laroche, public safety director Taylor Yeates and the superintendent convene to form a long-term plan.
Philbrook, whose recent promotion to sergeant will take him out of the SRO rotation, said a second officer would free up time for classroom education and prevention instead of simply responding to crises and attending student risk assessment meetings.
His replacement, Officer Kendra Raymond, started this week.
The boards also discussed ongoing efforts to share resources and staffing. Since both entities use Bombardier Park, school facilities staff have recently joined town facilities crews in prepping athletic fields. They’ve also helped with electrical needs and carpentry, totaling nearly 100 hours of labor, town manager Don Turner said.
And now that the town has a mechanic on its highway crew, Turner is pursuing the possibility of performing fleet vehicle inspections and oil changes in-house.
“It’s been a great collaboration,” he said. “I can’t wait to see where we can take it.”
The groups also reviewed the capital planning process, an endeavor the school district has only recently undertaken. Bradshaw said the school now uses the town’s planning software to chart the schedule and costs for needed improvements; the board’s facilities committee will review it on Friday.
The selectboard will approve its capital improvement plan on May 7.
The school and selectboard will next meet Monday, July 30, keeping with the every fifth Monday schedule.