SUNNYSIDE — A motion to re-divide the amount contributed by each party for the School Resource Officer program failed when the vote split 2-2 at the July 8 City Council meeting.

Councilman Francisco Guerrero presented a motion to amend the contract, requiring the School District to pay 75 percent and the city to pay 25 percent for the program.

He did so after stating he couldn’t support a 50 percent shared cost.

Abstaining from the vote due to his occupation was Councilman Craig Hicks.

The discussion leading to the vote started with City Manager Martin Casey speaking to the fact the council has had two workshops on the matter.

Noting the Police Department is experiencing staffing shortages and overtime concerns, Councilman Ron Stremler believes two SROs further constrain the department because they are two officers not on patrol.

Stremler voted with Guerrero in favor of the 75/25 split in financial responsibility.

Concerned the schools would pull out of the contract if required to pay more than half the cost of the program, Casey said the city would lose revenue.

“If we end up pulling officers out of the schools, we would lose ground there,” Police Chief Al Escalera furthered, noting the city would be responsible for the full salary of each of the officers.

He said there’s no benefit to making the School District pay 75 percent, and instead, there are more disadvantages.

Citing budget constraints, Guerrero held firmly to the belief the city must make cuts and the SRO positions may be a way to do so.

“The School District has more money,” he said, noting he’s heard private security has been known to work in other school districts.

“We live in a time where police officers are seen as the enemy… we don’t know what these officers can prevent,” Councilman Dean Broersma, who voted against the motion proposed by Guerrero, said.

Mayor Julia Hart also voted against the motion and said she understands the concerns regarding the budget but doesn’t like the idea of pricing the city out of its role in protecting students, whom she said are a part of the community police are protecting.

After the failed vote, the staff was directed by City Council to work with the School District toward an agreement that would be “more favorable.”

Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, ext. 114 or email JMcGhan@sunnysidesun.com

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