Keep Bridgeport Resource Officer

Bridgeport residents concerned about the safety of their children are being asked to do something about it. For a few dollars a year, they can continue providing excellent protection against violence in village schools.

Professional resource officers, often police or sheriff’s deputies, are employed at many Ohio Valley schools. Most educators like to have them around for a variety of reasons.

One is that presence of an armed resource officer is a deterrent against violence such as that in Newtown, Conn., and at several other schools during the past few years.

Bridgeport Exempted Village Schools have a resource officer, but the board of education, searching for ways to reduce spending as cuts in state aid continue, plans to eliminate the position after this academic year.

That may not mean the resource officer program has to be discontinued, however. School district officials have decided to put that question to voters.

A 1-mill property tax levy for the school system will be on the ballot in May. School officials say proceeds from the levy, if approved, would be used to retain the resource officer for the next five years.

Approval of the levy would result in a relatively small tax increase. School officials say owners of a home valued at $75,000 would pay only about $20 more a year.

Of course, thoughtful voters will want assurances the school district cannot afford to retain the resource officer without funding from the proposed levy. It will be up to school officials, between now and May, to demonstrate paying for the officer without the levy would require cuts elsewhere in the school system that are unacceptable to Bridgeport residents.

At first glance, it appears the district is stretching its budget to make ends meet. As reported by the state Department of Education, Bridgeport schools spent an average of $4,903 per pupil during the 2010-11 school year, the most recent for which figures were available. The state average that year was $5,862.

Assuming voters can be satisfied there is no practical alternative to a levy if the resource officer is to be retained, the issue should be received favorably by voters. Again, a professional resource officer is the very best safeguard against violence in a school – and sadly, that is a public education expense even local residents are being forced to consider.