A meeting devoted to security at Chartiers Valley drew an audience of 85 parents earlier this week and led to a list of ideas, reviewed by law enforcement and district officials, to help protect students from the threat of school shootings.
Implementing those ideas could cost nearly $2.5 million, though, and might add more than $1 million to the school’s annual budget moving forward.
As a result, Chartiers Valley officials are considering a ballot referendum where residents would vote on whether they want a property tax increase that would directly fund additional security measures.
“If you look at the list,” said Mark Kuczinski, head of the school board’s finance committee, “a lot of it… is personnel costs, which are recurring costs year after year—something that a millage increase would definitely cover.”
Under state law, Chartiers Valley can increase property taxes by 2.4% for the 2018-2019 school year without holding a voter referendum. A $64.5 million preliminary budget under consideration already calls for a tax increase to cover a $3 million revenue shortfall (although those numbers are subject to change before a final budget is adopted in June).
It is unclear when school officials would make a decision on whether to hold a ballot referendum tied to school security.
District officials estimate that it would cost $2.5 million to add all of the security measures outlined at Monday’s meeting.
Between 30% to 40% of that cost would go toward equipment such as metal detectors, classroom door barricade kits, additional security cameras, and metal gates to prevent unauthorized access to school grounds. Those are largely one-time investments.
But hiring additional security personnel to patrol Chartiers Valley’s school buildings could cost more than $1 million per year, every year, moving forward.
“It’s an important, important matter to keep our buildings [safe], keep our kids safe, keep our staff safe,” said school board president Tony Mazzarini. “But it also takes money. So when you’re out there in the community thinking safety and security, promote the fact that we need money to do that. And I’m asking you to do that.”
Chartiers Valley has three armed police officers stationed throughout the district, a security measure not common in the region. The district also employs five unarmed campus security workers.
Next week, students will take part in Chartiers Valley’s first armed intruder response training sessions. Materials for parents will be available on the school web site.
Asked by a parent why Chartiers Valley had not trained students up until now, Mazzarini said that with students transitioning into new buildings, and staff still undergoing training, the district wanted to be careful to send a clear, uniform message to students.
“We needed to be trained,” he said, “our staff needed to be trained, and our officers who are in these buildings had to re-think… Moving forward, and using all of the information that we have gathered, we will put better programs in place to train our staff and train our kids.”