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Kent finance board approves school security officer funding

KENT — A proposal from the Kent Board of Education to create a non-lapsing fund to support hiring a school security officer for the coming school year was approved by the Board of Finance at its regular meeting on Wednesday, August 16.

In a separate decision the Board of Finance voted to approve $70,000 in funding for the non-lapsing fund, any unused excess to be returned to the town’s general fund.

The decisions were made following lengthy debate that posed a variety of viewpoints, ranging from the policy decisions questioning the need for any sort of additional security at Kent Center School, to a focus on how the requested $70,000 should be sourced in a way that offers transparency.

The value of transparency in budgetary spending was argued by Board of Education chairman Scott Trabucco in response to a suggestion that the school board could find the requested funding in its own unspent surplus accounts for this year. Members of the finance board suggested that the Board of Education would then include the position in next year’s budget as an existing position to be funded.

“We are going out of our way to create a transparent process,” Trabucco said. He indicated that the Board of Education had voted unanimously to request the non-lapsing fund for the purpose.

The non-lapsing fund would bring the desired transparency and would provide for any unspent funds to be returned to the town’s General Fund at the end of the fiscal year, according to the proposal.

Framework for the discussion was provided by Board of Finance chairman Nancy O’Dea-Wyrick who set out three questions to be discussed: Is there going to be a fund, how to set up such a fund, and how to fund it.

As a resident and taxpayer, finance board member Jason Wright said that he has reservations about whether he would favor the hiring of a school security officer. He also conceded that the town has no control over how the Board of Education manages its funding, noting that the education board has $60,000 in its unspent contingency fund this year.

Trabucco responded that his board had been asked to increase the amount of funds in its contingency fund and would be reluctant to spend it down.

O’Dea-Wyrick commented that if the education board wants to fund the security guard, then it should go ahead and spend it down.

Reminding the finance board of the issue at hand, Wright said, “Our job here is do we have a non-lapsing fund?”

“If it’s that important to you, you handle it within the resources you have,” O’Dea-Wyrick told Trabucco.

Trabucco noted that in a recent survey of parents and school staff, 68% had favored the addition of an armed security guard. That statistic was countered by a comment that it had not been a town-wide survey of all residents.

A resident attending the meeting said that he is not convinced of the need for a security officer.

“The school is secured well,” he said.

“I did not find any concrete evidence that there is a need,” he said, asking for a more transparent process through public discussion. Wright agreed about the value of a future taxpayer informational forum to explore the school security issue that has brought a variety of disparate opinions.

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