MANTI—Contracts defining fairly complicated cost-sharing arrangements for four school resource officers in the county have been renegotiated for the first time in more than 10 years.
On Sept. 21, after more than a year of negotiation, Sanpete County commissioners approved contracts between the county, and the North Sanpete and South Sanpete school districts, under which the county and the districts will split the costs of two of officers, both of whom are sheriff’s deputies. The contracts run through July 2026.
Various interlocal agreements and memoranda of understanding have also been concluded between the county or school districts, and Ephraim City, Manti City and all cities in the Gunnison Valley.
“This is the way government is supposed to work,” said Kevin Daniels, county attorney, who was involved in the negotiations. There were many meetings and lots of adjustments in numbers, he said. Finally, everyone settled on cost splits, and the deals were done.
The cost of salary and benefits for Deputy Greg Peterson, who serves the whole North Sanpete School District, and Deputy Kenneth Kirkham, who is based at Manti High School, is $138,000 each, Sheriff Jared Buchanan told commissioners at the Sept. 21 meeting.
The county will cover half of that total and bill school districts for half of the cost of the officer serving each district.
The North Sanpete district pay all of its half, or $69,000.
While the South Sanpete will also pay a bill for $69,000, it will recover some of its costs from Ephraim and Manti cities.
Under subordinate agreements, Ephraim City will pay the school district 11 percent of Kirkham’s compensation, as well as cover the cost for Jeff McQuivey, a half-time officer in the Ephraim Police Department, who serves Ephraim Elementary and Ephraim Middle schools. And Manti City will pay 9 percent of the cost for Deputy Kirkham. Ephraim’s share is higher than Manti’s because it sends more students to Manti and Ephraim public schools.
The result is that so long as Ephraim and Manti cities pay their shares, the South Sanpete School District’s net cost will be about 30 percent of Kirkham’s compensation, or about $46,000.
There’s a fourth agreement covering the Gunnison Valley. The Gunnison Valley Police Department (GVPD) has hired Vince Buege as the resource officer based at Gunnison Valley High School and covering the high school, middle school and elementary school in Gunnison. The estimated cost of his salary and benefits is $96,400.
Even though Buege is not a sheriff’s deputy, to be fair to all regions of the county, Sanpete County commissioners will pay about $27,700, or 30 percent, of Buege’s compensation. That brings the county’s total cost for resource officers to about $165,700.
The South Sanpete School District will also contribute to the GVPD for Buege’s compensation. The school district’s share will be about 31 percent, or $29,000, bringing the district’s total cost for resource officers to just over $75,000.
The renegotiation process started under former Sheriff Brian Nielson. “When Jared (Buchanan) came in, to his credit, he jumped right on it,” Daniels said. “Ninety-nine percent of the credit belongs to him, and to the commissioners for agreeing to take on a greater burden” than under previous contracts.
The first school resource officer contracts were signed in 2008. At that time, many more towns were pitching in, particularly in North Sanpete. As years passed, most of the towns decided they weren’t getting a direct benefit from the officers and dropped out of the program.
Each time that happened, the county picked up the cost that had been paid by the city involved. The county “kept eating it, and eating it and eating it, to where we started at 20 percent (or resource-officer costs) and ended up paying 80 percent” of costs for the two county deputies, Buchanan told commissioners. Meanwhile, the base costs themselves rose because of inflation and officer longevity.
When Nielson and Daniels brought the problem to the commissioner’s attention, their response, Daniels said, was, “We absolutely see the benefit (of the resource officers), but it’s not fair for the county to pick up a disproportionate share of the cost.”
Later, Daniels and Buchanan talked with the school districts. “They were good partners. They understood the value” of having officers in their schools,” Daniels said.
The county attorney and sheriff were also involved in negotiations with the cities.