The Board of Finance heard a detailed presentation from Finance Director Robert Tait on June 10 about the various pending grants a the town is applying for, or has applied for to offset taxpayer expenses related to school security and related measures in the wake of 12/14.
Mr Tait reviewed the documentation ahead of the meeting, beginning with the School Emergency Response to Violence or SERV grant.
Mr Tait said the SERV program funds short-term and long-term education-related services for local education agencies (LEAs) to help recover from a violent or traumatic event in which the learning environment has been disrupted.
To date, $1,303,195 has been awarded covering the period December 15, 2012 to August 31, 2013. Mr Tait reported that a separate application is being created for the period September 1, 2013 to December 31, 2014.
He also presented a spreadsheet detailing where the funds would be used - including some reimbursements for money already spent for services including temporary staffers who will be working with the district’s mental health advisor Melissa Brymer.
The phase 1 SERV grant also covers various overtime costs for staff; will underwrite an August 2013 “Booster Program,” for SHS students; and incident specific professional development for both Sandy Hook and Reed Intermediate School staff as they prepare to welcome students back after the summer break.
Mr Tait said the town, through the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch, Office of Victims Services, is poised to apply for a $2.8 million grant from the US Department of Justice Office of Victims of Crime.
Several Projects Covered
If fully funded, the Antiterrorism and Emergency Assistance Program (AEAP) could underwrite post 12/14 recovery initiatives for several town departments through 2014 including primarily district costs for facilities enhancements, Chalk Hill maintenance costs, building hardening, transportation, security, wellness programs, security training, and tuition.
Another $717,000 in grants applications were made to the US Department of Justice to the federal agency on May 29, 2013 by the State Office of Policy and Management for the Town of Newtown, Town of Monroe and other law enforcement agencies. Mr Tait explained that these items have not been approved by the federal agency yet.
Another $210,426 DOJ grant was already awarded, and will cover the costs of data terminals and in-car video solutions for the police department’s 15 front line vehicles. These terminals will run the video surveillance software for Chalk Hill School and Newtown schools.
Mr Tait said a $161,579 appropriation was transferred back to the town’s contingency account from the technology capital account. He said $174,000 was originally transferred to the capital account in anticipation of this grant.
The same amount was not transferred back due to warranty costs not covered by the grant.
He then reviewed the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS Grant, which provides funding for the hiring or rehiring of additional full-time police officers including School Resource Officers or SROs.
Mr tait said Two officers are being requested (the maximum allowed). And an additional officer is being requested in a separate law enforcement grant. He said Monroe has applied for officers at Chalk Hill.
COPS Grant Stipulations
That application has been filed with the Department of Justice by the Newtown Police Department. Awards are expected to be made by September 30. These grants come with the most significant stipulations, Mr Tait said.
“If awarded, Newtown will pay 25 percent of the cost for two officers for three years of the four-year grant,” Mr Tait said. “The feds pick up 75 percent of the salary plus benefits for three years.”
However, as a condition, Newtown will be required to keep those two officers on the payroll for at least another year. The grant can be applied to newly hired, entry level, or re-hired officers.
Finance Board Chairman John Kortze said he has faced questions about why the town was “over inflating the budget” when there was an expectation of grants to cover the extraneous costs.
“And the simple answer is, because we didn’t know which grants would happen,” he said.
Mr Kortze pointed to the 4.3 school resource officer positions the finance board requested in the recently passed town budget request, which were reduced to 3.3 during budget deliberations by the Legislative Council.
“One of those SROs was not approved, and was removed from the grant, and the other two are in the COPS grant,” Mr Kortze said. “And we won’t know if we received that funding until at least September – long after the current fiscal year ends. (Once school resumes in August) we’ll have to cover the costs of those officers until the new hires are trained.”
He said as a result of budgeting for the expenses in lieu of grant commitments, the town will be able to honor its commitment to providing enhanced school security.
“It’s a good thing we put that money into the (2013-14) budget,” Mr Kortze said, “because most of it will have to be spent for police and security.”