County may reduce on-campus officers

San Mateo County may reduce the number of parole officers staffing local schools after some cities and school districts failed to pay their share of those officers’ salaries.

The county’s risk-prevention program provides 14 officers to high schools and middle schools throughout the county to prevent truancy and provide diversion programs for students flirting with criminal activity, according to Michael Stouffer, deputy chief probation officer for juvenile services.

San Mateo County secures grants and state monies that provide more than half the funding for the program, and local police departments and school districts also contribute. However, the city of Millbrae and the San Mateo Union High School District have failed to pay in recent years.

“It’s troubling that so little effort has been made, especially on the part of the school district,” Supervisor Jerry Hill said. “Maybe it’s time for us to require those funds more aggressively.”

In addition to patrolling schools, the on-duty parole officers attend dances and graduations, lecture in classrooms about gangs and drugs, and lend an ear when kids need one.

“Sometimes they’ll come to us when they’re not comfortable going to anyone else,” Stouffer said.

San Mateo Union High School District’s expected payments ranged from $140,000 to $144,000 per year from 2001 to 2007, Stouffer said. The district paid in full in the 2001-02 school year, paid roughly $37,000 per year until 2005, and paid nothing in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

The district has since agreed to pay $40,000 in the 2007-08 school year, but will receive fewer hours of on-duty time from the parole department, Stouffer said.

“We’ve rearranged our finances to make the commitment,” said SMUHSD Superintendent David Miller, who confirmed that the district has not contributed financially to the program in recent years, in part due to its long-term deficits and bond debts.

Similarly, Millbrae, struggling with an ongoing deficit, has not contributed to the risk-prevention program since the 2003-04 fiscal year, Stouffer said. Atherton has also failed to make some of its payments.

That may soon change, Millbrae City Manager Ralph Jaeck said.

“We’ve restored a lot of the police cuts, so it’s certainly something that could be discussed and recommended [we pay for],” Jaeck said.

Supervisors urged the creation of a new policy that would reduce services when cities and districts don’t pay.

“We need to make sure we’re not expending county funds to subsidize this,” Supervisor Rich Gordon said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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