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Watchdog: Follow the Money

Newtown schools see large security cost increase

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Education,Associated Press,Watchdog,Newtown,Newtown Shooting,Follow the Money

NEWTOWN, Conn. — Newtown's school board has voted unanimously to delay any spending increase until more information is available about significant security costs.

The News-Times reports that the recommended school security package for the next fiscal year is $2.4 million at the district where 20 children and six educators were fatally shot in an elementary school on Dec. 14, 2012. It includes building upgrades and armed and unarmed security guards for the district's seven schools.

The district will likely receive grants to cover most of the costs.

The school board's current budget includes $324,525 for 17 security guards and a director. The town has covered about $300,000 more for the three school resource officers at the high school, middle school and intermediate schools.

The town's contingency fund also was tapped to cover police overtime charges of more than $360,000 for patrols at the three elementary schools.

"It doesn't surprise me that it's not going smoothly because it's a new endeavor, and so people want to discuss it," said new school board member Michelle Ku.

First Selectwoman Pat Llodra said she can appreciate that no one wants to be forced to choose between necessary security and educational or municipal programs and services.

"Everyone needs to be patient with the process," she said. "Everyone is committed to have safety procedures for all of our schools. No one is backing off of that commitment."

School security is playing a new role in Newtown and Legislative Council Chairwoman Mary Ann Jacob said officials must determine how best to manage and account for security costs even if in the short-term much of the expense will not be borne by taxpayers. School and town leaders need to help taxpayers understand this "expanded responsibility" that comes with a hefty price tag.

"It's part of our new world," she said.

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