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Want more police?

"The U.S. Department of Justice wants to send Oak Harbor a $125,000 grant to put a police officer at the city’s two middle schools. But unless the police department or school district can come up with some matching money, Oak Harbor Police Chief Tony Barge said he’ll have to send the money back.Barge told the Oak Harbor School Board Monday that his department had applied for the grant last year and had been notified earlier this month that they were a recipient. Barge said the grant would pay about 75 percent of a three-year salary for a school-based police officer. The rest, he said, would have to come from local sources. In addition, the grant requires a four-year commitment to the cops-in-schools program. That fourth year would have to be paid entirely by the city and the district, Barge said.A similar grant has already placed an officer at Oak Harbor High School. That program, currently in its third year, is considered very successful in helping reduce crime and disturbances on campus. Barge said an officer at the middle schools would probably also have beneficial effects.Barge estimated that the cost to the district would be about $18,000 each year. He said that he had already been told by Oak Harbor officials that the city cannot afford to pick up any of that cost. He plans to have further discussions with city leaders regarding funding of the program in year four.Oak Harbor School District Superintendent Rick Schulte agreed that the school officer program has been a plus, but said the school district is also on a strict budget with an uncertain future.“I have a high regard for the program,” Schulte said. “But I don’t have a crystal ball on how things will happen. I can’t tell you that we’ll have discretionary funds right now.”Schulte said that current district enrollment is up at the moment, but if past trends are any indicator enrollment will start to drop and may even fall below budget projections. School districts receive state funding based on the number of students in class. The potential enrollment shortfall, coupled with uncertain federal dollars could leave the district about $200,000 under budget this year Schulte said. On the other hand, he said, things could go the other way leaving the district with extra funds that could be spent on a campus officer.Boardmembers Kathy Jones and Scott Hornung said they would prefer to see district money spend on a middle-school officer than on a proposed study into a districtwide hot lunch program.Barge said he needed to give the Department of Justice a decision withing 60 days. The school board told him they will give him some sort of answer at their next regular board meeting Oct. 11."

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