Township considers sharing expense of school resource officer with Brandywine Middle/High School

NILES TWP. — Brandywine High School could have a school resource officer on campus this fall if Brandywine officials can reach an agreement with Niles Township and Berrien County Sheriff’s Department officials.

Niles Township Treasurer Jim Ringler reported the news at Monday’s Niles Township board meeting. He said he met recently with Brandywine Superintendent Karen Weimer and Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey to talk about the proposal.

“The district wants to put on a school resource officer from the sheriff’s department at the high school,” Ringler said. “If they put on a full-time school resource officer, they want to know if the township will pay for 30 percent of the cost if they cover 70 percent. The person hired would work for the township in the summer months.”

Niles school board member Dana Daniels was in the audience and reported that the 70-30 arrangement was similar to the one the Niles school district has with the Niles City police.

Ringler said the school resource officer position would cost a total of $135,000 including all benefits. While Township Clerk Terry Eull suggested seeing if federal grant funds would cover the township’s share of the costs, Ringler said the township has enough in reserves to cover its share for four to six years.

He told board members that he will bring the matter up for discussion and a possible vote at the board’s next meeting in August. He noted that Weimer indicated that she wants to have the school resource officer in place by the start of the school year.

The Brandywine request led into a brief discussion about how it fit into a separate request from the sheriff’s department for the township to fund more officers. The township’s current contract with the sheriff’s department pays for seven officers working 24/7 at a cost of $1.04 million a year.

Sheriff’s department officials reported in June that the lack of more officers in the township leaves existing officers overworked and leads to long response times as well as dangerous situations where officers can be left without backup. Adding five officers which would cost the township $830,000.

Ringler said Monday that while the township could cover its share of the costs for the Brandywine school resource center, hiring more officers like the sheriff’s department requested would require an additional millage.

The township’s current police millage is for one mill and will be up for renewal in 2022. He said the one mill levy raises around $400,000 annually with the township subsidizing the rest of the cost from its general fund.

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