By Steven Tavares
When stuck between a rock and hard place, the San Leandro City Council unanimously approved sharing the cost of school crossing guards for a second consecutive year. Similar to last year, the council belatedly approved funding roughly half the cost of guards after leaving the expenditure out of their mid-summer fiscal budget. The city stand to be on the hook for roughly $35,000 this year.
San Leandro schools went without crossing guards for the first three months of last year's school leading to sometimes raucous opposition towards both the city council and school board leading to a cost-sharing deal similarly approved Tuesday night. The city covered the cost of crossing guards until last year when the program was cut due to rising deficits. The council did not fund the program for this fiscal year amid some confusion among council members on whether it was included or not.
"It seems like last year, we said the same thing, 'Ok, we'll do it this time.'," said Vice Mayor Ursula Reed.
"We continue to say, 'Oh, Ok' and it is eating away at our reserves, which are already low," said Councilwoman Diana Souza. Although Souza says she is in favor of funding crossing guards she wanted to find expenditures for cutting to balance the other side of the ledger, which has become increasingly difficult with the rise of small factions in the city successfully rescuing their programs from trimming.
"We passed a budget and we need to stick to it," said Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, who also asked the city manager to investigate whether the city's Traffic Safety Fund could be used to fund the program.
After the city council and school board liaison meeting last August, the school district approved funding guards for the first half of the school year. School Trustee Diana Prola said the board did not have a plan for funding the rest of the year if the council had not approved sharing the cost. "This is late in the game," said Prola. "It will be hard to find the money."
Souza urged the city to begin a dialogue with school district immediately to stave off any confusion in the future, but the some members did more than imply the city is looking to get out of the crossing guard business. "We must give a message to the school district that we can't follow through in the future," said Councilman Jim Prola. He urged parents and teacher to volunteer in the future and has witnessed quality of the hired guards to be uneven. "They have year to get the act together," said Prola.