Cutting School Resource Officers Unnecessary

On Tuesday, June 2, the City Council will vote to approve the Alameda Police Department’s (APD) budget. Approval would include cutting funding for high school resource officers. Mayor Trish Spencer has said at previous city council meetings regarding the city’s budget that there is a projected 1.4 percent deficit for the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

For APD Chief Paul Rolleri, this 1.4 percent cut from his department proposed by Spencer would have to come from his officers stationed at Alameda and Encinal high schools.

On the surface, this seems like a bad decision. Campus resource officers are often charged with the duty of de-escalating situations at the schools, dealing with cases of sexual harassment and assault, making drug related arrests and other duties that benefit the school.

But, as Chief Rolleri says, "the financial reality is that the school district isn’t contributing any funding to that program."

APD has a sister program at the housing at Alameda Point. The Alameda Housing Authority pays $210,000 of the $360,000 it costs to have two officers stationed there. The Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) is paying nothing toward the $360,000 it costs to have two officers at its high schools.

AUSD has had on-campus resource officers for more than 20 years, and has contributed toward their salaries in the past. It is understandable that the school district does not have as much money as it wants to have, and is doing its best to cut costs.

APD has already been making financial cuts in its numbers of sworn officers, whittling down the 111 officers the department had during the 1997-1998 fiscal year to 88 sworn officers during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

The interesting thing about these budget cuts is that they do not seem necessary. Interim City Manager Elizabeth Warmerdam has said that "our last couple of years, the city has done a lot better than expected." Revenue for the city is much higher than it was expected to be, and the expenditures for the city have been much lower.

This has led the city to have a $30 million dollar surplus, or a reserve of about 37 percent. This is a "reserve" rather than a "surplus." The city is required to have a surplus of about 16 percent over its annual operating budget, and anything over that is considered in the reserve, a surplus over the surplus.

During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, that surplus increased another $1.5 million dollars.

The 1.4 percent projected deficit is not actually a deficit on the operating budget, it is simply a downsizing on the surplus the city has found itself in. The surplus would still exceed the required reserves. During the 2016 fiscal year, the annual operating basis is projected to cut into the surplus and leave only a 36 percent reserve for the city.

If the city does have a 1.4 percent deficit on the annual operating cost, then the city still has a large fund in the reserves.

If the city continues to follow the trend of projecting incorrectly and taking in far more money than is spent, this reserve will only increase.

Is it really necessary to cut a resource for students at the high schools in the fear of losing about a million dollars on the city’s reserve fund?

John Grimaldi is an Alameda Sun intern. He is a senior at Alameda High School and will be attending Oberlin College in the fall. He can be reached at editor@alamedasun.com.