Lower Pottsgrove Sets Floor for SRO Cost: $170,000

Commissioner Michael McGroarty (at top right) emphasizes a point during Monday night’s Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners’ meeting

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – One-hundred-seventy-thousand dollars.

That’s the starting price – $170,000 – from which negotiations might move ahead if the Pottsgrove School District is interested in signing a contract with the Lower Pottsgrove Police Department to provide a school resource officer (SRO) at Pottsgrove High School for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The figure was suggested by township Board of Commissioners’ member Michael McGroarty, who said he believes the district may find better, more effective building security options on its own. However, if it wants to pursue an SRO contract, he explained during the board’s Monday (May 3, 2021) meeting, the price should be at least twice the $85,000 paid annually during the past three years.

“That’s a minimum,” McGroarty emphasized.

  • The Post recorded the township board and audience comments of 37 minutes 12 seconds without edits, and posted the clip to its SoundCloud account. It’s embedded below.

Until the district presents a contract proposal as it last did in 2019, the commissioners’ public comments Monday appeared to reinforce the content of an April letter that announced the township’s intent to allow the current SRO agreement to lapse Aug. 31 without renewal. Board members have previously said they prefer to re-task the SRO to regular policing duty, both to heighten township safety and cover police department manpower shortages.

“I see this as a negotiation like anything else we do, from the building (a reference to the proposed township municipal campus) to anything else,” Commissioner Robert Mohollen added. “Those negotiations start when we get a contract proposed to us. Like any business, any municipality, they propose a contract and we can then negotiate. If our negotiation then says its a per diem rate, that’s fine, but then we would need to cover some additional costs.”

Under the current contract the district covers an SRO’s salary, overtime if any, benefits, training and education, and other expenses, but only when he or she provides services to the district. From the township’s perspective, commissioners indicated, the Pottsgrove school board might be asked to compensate Lower Pottsgrove for an SRO’s future costs, such as pension, vacation, and other items.

“If they (school directors) propose a contract we can let them know what we think is a fair cost for that officer. If they’re willing to meet that, I have no problems with it,” Mohollen said.

Lower Pottsgrove Sets Floor for SRO Cost: $170,000
Among those urging Lower Pottsgrove commissioners to retain the SRO position were district residents Robert Sutton, left, and Katie Coppa. Both offered lengthy comments. Hear them in their entirety in the SoundCloud recording above.

Those attending the commissioners’ meeting who identified themselves as district parents, employees, or residents generally repeated a desire to have the SRO remain. The position represents enhanced safety, an attentive ear for those troubled or in distress, and the start of a positive relationship between students and police, they said.

Although its five members generally agree on many issues, the board does not always vote unanimously, commissioners’ President Bruce Foltz reminded the audience. As a grand- and great-grandparent of children in Pottsgrove schools, Foltz said, he promised he would give “serious consideration” to a district contract proposal. There’s still no guarantee it would receive board approval, he admitted.

For its part, Pottsgrove school board President Robert Lindgren last week acknowledged the SRO “is important to us in the Pottsgrove community,” and pledged the board’s nine school directors would “move ahead” to invest in an SRO with a private firm. District administrators, he said during his board’s April 27 meeting, have already “started to make those arrangements.”

If the township was willing to extend its contract, the district “would be more than happy to explore that option as well,” Lindgren said.

Photos by The Post