The dispute between the city of Ottumwa and the Ottumwa school district over sharing the cost of assigning police officers to schools appears to be nearing its conclusion. Tuesday night, the Ottumwa city council unanimously approved an agreement with the school district, although the school board will need to approve the agreement as well.
Two uniformed officers will continue to work at Ottumwa High School, with one more officer continuing to work at Evans Middle School. Under the old agreement, the school district paid for the vast majority of the costs. The new agreement will transfer about $30,000 of those costs to the city’s responsibility. It also simplifies the arrangement. Police Chief Tom McAndrew told the city council that under the old agreement, each officer operated under a separate contract, with the school district paying different amounts. The new deal covers all three officers equally.
The dispute originally came about when the school district determined it could no longer afford the cost of the officers’ presence under the old formula. They first proposed a 50-50 split of the costs to the city, but the council rejected that proposal because of the effect it would have on the city budget.
The school district had floated the possibility of walking away from the agreement entirely, which could have forced the city to fully fund the cost of the three officers by itself. However, officials from both sides of the dispute have said the officers are an important part of security at both OHS and Evans. The two sides continued to negotiate, and eventually came to an agreement.
The school district will still pay over $187,000 in the 2019-2020 school year, covering the cost of staffing the three officers for 180 days of school. The actual total cost will likely be higher, factoring in overtime for officers to provide security at athletic events. The agreement only covers the upcoming school year, and either side can terminate the deal with 30 days’ notice.