Vermilion: Local schools wrestle with cost of security

7:10 PM, Jan 17, 2013   |    comments
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VERMILION -- Schools across the country are developing plans to avoid tragedies like Sandy Hook but increased security comes with increased costs.

A local school district has come up with a way to guarantee the money.

As important as it may be, current state law prohibits school districts from putting a levy on the ballot for the sole purpose of paying for security in its buildings.

That leaves districts trying to balance the cost of security with the cost of educating kids.

The Vermilion school board and its administration say they have a plan to change that.

In 2009 for a second time, Vermilion taxpayers voted down an operating levy. It froze hiring and salaries. It closed one school.

These days, classroom size and teacher salaries must share the priority list with security. Vermilion has only one armed resource officer between three schools. To add more would cost teaching positions.

"There is a great deal of cost that goes into just funding one resource officer. If we need two more, that would increase the cost,"  Superintendent Phil Pempin said.

Instead of trading education for armed security, the superintendent and board is asking the Ohio legislature to tweak levy guidelines.

It would allow districts to put a levy on the ballot for a sole purpose of protection.

"The comunities would still have to agree to pay extra tax dollars for that," Pempin said.

Dstricts would be legally bound to use that money for security only as long as the levy remained on the books.

The plan is getting mixed reviews among voters.

"Things that are going on in this country right now I am really concerned about. They're scary. The school board needs the citizens of Vermilion to get behind this," voter Pat Mey said.

"If society changes their ideas about how their money should be spent or what we should do in the schools, so be it," former school board member Tom Ruh said.

Vermilion school administrators say this would guarantee an appropriate level of security, should tragedies like the ambush shooting in Sandy Hook ever fade from our memories.

Such a change in the law would tie the hands of future school administrators. It could eliminate the opportunity for federal funding.

Still, administrators here say it's worth it to guarantee local control school safety.



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