By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Independent
A long-standing program in Clearview Public Schools has been saved from the chopping block.
Town of Stettler council heard the details of the new agreement between Clearview Public Schools, Stettler County, and the Town for the funding of the School Resource Officer (SRO) position in the school division.
The position pays for an RCMP member to work with youth within the school division, based on a 200-day school calendar.
The program started in 2001 to promote positive interaction between the RCMP and community youth.
The original agreement had the Town and County each paying 25 per cent with Clearview Public Schools paying 50 per cent.
In the ensuing two decades since the agreement was made it had never been reviewed, and due to the escalating costs, Clearview Public Schools served notice late in 2020 that they wished to withdraw from the agreement.
The notice caused all the stakeholders to come back to the table and discuss what would need to happen to keep the program going. Those discussions resulted in a new draft agreement presented to Town of Stettler council for approval during their July 6th council meeting.
The agreement is based on an estimated $120,000 cost per year for the RCMP member, which is being split three ways between the parties.
However, as the RCMP member’s priority will be serving the town of Stettler, he or she could be called out of the school at any time, and by the time overtime and other costs are considered, according to Chief Executive Officer Greg Switenky, the actual cost of the member to the Town, who holds the RCMP contract could sit more in the $130,000 to $150,000 range.
Clearview Public School’s portion of the agreement will cap at $40,000 per year, and any remaining overages will be funded 50/50 between the Town of Stettler and the County.
“The school division was going to cancel this completely,” said Switenky.
“I can live with one-third, one-third, one-third.”
However, the math didn’t sit well with all council members.
“Why even imply that it is one-third, one-third, one-third,” said Coun. Malcolm Fischer.
“It’s not that. Why even have the fiction of one-third?”
Switenky did notify the council member that a section within the document makes Clearview aware that the costs the Town and County will have to pay is going to be over and above the $120,000. He also added that the contract will be reviewed by administration every three years to ensure that the funding levels remain adequate.
Clearview Public Schools’ portion is being capped at $40,000 for a couple of reasons. First, the funding is based on a maximum of 200 days in school during the year.
Switenky was quick to inform council that unlike the municipalities, Clearview works within a strict budget based on enrollment, and the funds they have are the funds they have, whereas municipalities such as Stettler and the County can raise revenue via tax increases, if the need arises.
The agreement has no end date; however, it does have exit clauses, granting any member of the agreement to withdraw with six months of notice.
The agreement will not come into effect until signed off by the Clearview Public Schools trustees and the County of Stettler, though all parties were involved in the drafting of the document.
When fully staffed, the Stettler RCMP detachment has eight urban members, and four provincially-funded members. The SRO position will be drawn from one of the eight urban members and will be based out of William E. Hay Secondary School.
Council approved the signing of the agreement as presented, with only Coun. Al Campbell opposing the document.