The Tempe Union High School Governing Board last week deferred action on a move to transfer $450,000 earmarked for school resource officers at four high schools, including Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe as it unanimously approved a $113-million maintenance and operations budget and a $20.7 million capital spending plan for the 2020-21 school year that holds the line on taxes.
Superintendent Dr. Kevin Mendivil stressed that the money is still in the budget for the SROs and that the board can reallocate it at another time if it still wants to go along with a move by board members Brian Garcia and Andres Barraza to shift the funds to hiring more counselors or social workers.
“The $450,000 that was earmarked for SROs is still a part of the budget,” Mendivil said, adding, “We just have that flexibility now to make wise decisions.”
He repeated his intention “to look at the variety of ways in which we can secure additional funding from the City of Tempe and from the city of Phoenix” and suggested there might be a way to combine additional revenue from those two cities and “possible do a combination of additional support through Care 7.”
Care 7 is a crisis intervention team Tempe provides in wide range of emergencies involving people who need help and is not limited to assisting schools.
Mendivil did not elaborate on the chances of securing funding from those two cash-strapped cities, which are both facing significant revenue shortfalls because of plummeting sales and hotel tax revenues brought on by the pandemic and subsequent business closures.
Tempe City Council has discussed possible cuts in its Police Department, according to reports, and Phoenix has historically not provided SROs, saying there are too many schools within its jurisdiction.
Mendivil also reiterated his belief that resource officers provide a valuable support for students, although Garcia and other opponents have said in the past that uniformed officers on campuses intimidate students, especially students of color.
But he added, “We’re not in any hurry to make a decision on how to make that expenditure.”
The budget includes a small pay bump for Tempe Union teachers, who will earn an average $71,512 annually – up from an average annual salary of $69,525 last year. That’s a dramatic 24 percent increase since the 2017-18 school year, when the average salary was $57,876, budget documents show.
Those documents also show that overall regular education spending – covering salaries, supplies and other expenses, will increase this school year by 6.1 percent, from $76 million to just under $90 million, while special education spending will increase 6 percent, from $$26 million to $27.6 million.