Brainerd School Board members will ask the city of Baxter to match Brainerd's rates for its school police liaison officer contract, which could mean a nearly $13,000 cost savings for the district over what Baxter has proposed.
The school board finance committee Monday discussed the renewal of both its contracts with the cities of Brainerd and Baxter. The school board previously requested Steve Lund, director of business services, to check into why the district pays more per hour for a part-time Baxter police officer at Forestview Middle School than for a full-time Brainerd police officer at Brainerd High School.
Lund said the district pays $45,580 a year, or $32.93 per hour for a Brainerd officer who works eight hours a day for 173 school days at BHS. This includes the officer's wages and the use of a police vehicle. The city of Brainerd has proposed a 2 percent increase for the 2009-10 school year.
The district pays $35,640 a year, or $51.50 per hour for a Baxter officer who works four hours a day for 173 days at Forestview. Baxter has proposed a 5 percent increase for the 2009-10 school year.
Lund said the city of Baxter calculates its fee based on the following: Officer salary, $54,605; officer benefits, $25,467; and squad car and maintenance, $14,968, which totals $95,039. The city's share of the total costs is 62.5 percent, or $59,399, while the city estimated the school district's share at 37.5 percent, or $35,640.
Lund offered finance committee members a couple other options. He said the Baxter squad car likely receives much less use during the school contract hours than when the officer is on normal patrol. But his first option was for the district to pay for half, not 37.5 percent, of the costs for the squad car, or $7,484. This proposal totaled $29,129, or $42.09 per hour.
The second option, which all board members agreed with, including the three board members who will officially be seated on the board in January, was for Baxter to match Brainerd's hourly rate of $32.93 for 692 hours per year, for a total cost of $22,787.56.
Board chair Ruth Nelson said she felt the district was being overcharged by having to pay for the squad car.
"I feel they should take it out completely," Nelson said.
Board members asked if the district could hired private security instead at Forestview. Lund said it would cost about $15 an hour. Superintendent Steve Razidlo said the administrative team at Forestview is appreciative of the Baxter police liaison officer's role at the school and would rather have an officer for part of the day than hire a private security firm.
"I'd like to remind the city of Baxter that in 2002 when we ran the referendum for Forestview they strongly supported this and they said they'd support us in the future," said board member Bob Nystrom. "I think at the very least, the city should match Brainerd."
Lund said he would meet with Baxter city officials and report back to the board.
The finance committee approved a 3 percent increase for the 2009-10 contract with Northern Pines Mental Health Services, a total cost of about $285,000. Nystrom abstained from the vote. It was too late this year, but board members agreed that they plan to seek bids on the mental health services contract next year in an attempt to lower costs. Lund said there are at least two other companies interested in providing services for the district.
Molly Kurtzman said she and Nystrom won't be on the board next year but she asked the current and incoming board members to seek bids next year.
"Come hell or high water, can we bid this thing out next year?," asked Kurtzman.
Northern Pines last year served 605 students in the district, a 17 percent increase in students on individual education plans and a 38 percent increase in students who don't have IEPs.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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