For the second time in less than a year, the Libby School District will be asking residents to help fund the hiring of a school resource officer.
Libby Superintendent Craig Barringer said the funding request would be found on the May 5 school board election ballot. The school is asking for $70,000 annually that will be matched with a grant from Flathead Electric Cooperative.
Last year, Flathead Electric announced it would reinvest members’ unclaimed capital credit dollars back into the communities it serves by helping fund three school resource officers in Flathead and Lincoln counties. The cooperative is paying for 50 percent of the estimated wages and benefits of two officers in Flathead County and agreed to pay 30 percent of the cost for one officer in Libby. The cooperative agreed to help fund the program for five years.
Capital credit checks are issued to Flathead Electric members every year, but sometimes that money goes unclaimed. Once a check remains unclaimed for five or more years, the cooperative is able to reinvest that money into the community.
While Flathead County was able to find funds in its coffers to match the donation, Libby went to the voters, who rejected the request with 1,141 people against and 906 for it. Despite the failure, Flathead Electric decided to offer the grant again this year.
“We’re really thankful to the cooperative for giving us this opportunity again,” he said.
Barringer said the school resource officer would cost between $65,000 and $70,000 annually, which includes the cost of benefits. The City of Libby will provide the officer with equipment, including a car and uniform. Barringer said the school district is asking for more money than the officer will be paid annually so that anything above and beyond the officer’s cost can be put away to pay for the program after the Flathead Electric grant runs out in five years.
Barringer said he is hopeful that the school district will be able to better communicate the need for a resource officer to the public this year. He said promotional efforts are starting much earlier than they did in 2019.
“We live in a different age than we did 30 years ago,” Barringer said. “Back then security meant getting the kids out quickly during a fire drill, but now there are different types of threats.”