Schenectady County

Return of DARE not a sure thing

A plan to bring the DARE program back to the elementary schools may not be a done deal after all.

PHOTOGRAPHER:

A plan to bring the DARE program back to the elementary schools may not be a done deal after all.

Supervisor Frank Quinn said Sunday he wants another work session to discuss Police Chief Michael Ranalli’s proposal to spend about $3,600 of his overtime budget to pay part of the cost of providing the drug education program to Pashley Elementary School in the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake district and Glendaal and Glen-Worden schools in Scotia-Glenville district. Both school districts agreed to contribute $2,000 each toward the $7,600 cost and Ranalli was planning to absorb the remaining cost in his budget.

Quinn said he wants answers from the chief as to why he wants to use his overtime budget when Ranalli had previously said he did not have enough overtime money to make it through June.

“While some board members think [DARE] is the greatest thing since sliced bread, some board members don’t even think DARE is worth the effort. At least, that’s what they’ve said to me,” Quinn said. “It’s a feel-good program. Where’s the data that says investing in this — even if you had the money — is going to purchase worthwhile results?”

Quinn said he is particularly concerned about taking on more expenses when the economy is slowing down. The town’s projections of sales tax and mortgage tax revenues could fall far short of expectations. “We’ve got millions of dollars that we’re talking about in potential revenue,” he said. “We may not have enough money at the end of the year.”

Ranalli was not present, but Lt. Rick Conley and Sgt. Scot Straight informed the Town Board Wednesday on the details of the plan. Conley said Ranalli is trying to minimize overtime as much as possible by working with officers to switch shifts and cover training.

Quinn wants to hear from the chief himself and said the soonest a work session could be scheduled is February.

Ranalli said Sunday his officers gave him the impression the board gave its blessing to go forward with his plan. He said he considered it to be a reasonable expense. “It’s wanted by the schools; it’s wanted by the parents,” he said.

He said the issue will have to be revisited next year. Regarding his overtime budget, he said the Town Board set a “completely unrealistic amount.”

“Regardless of whether I spend a couple thousand out of my own budget for DARE, we’re not going to have enough to get through the year,” he said.

The straight overtime budget for 2008 is $38,345, which was a reduction from the $59,969 in the 2007 budget. The time-and-a-half and double overtime budget is $53,915, which is less than the $119,939 in 2007.

Quinn said that there is not unanimous agreement on the board that the cut in police overtime was excessive.

Board member Edward Rosenberg said the overtime cut may have hit the Police Department hard since he believed the chief had already submitted a reduced figure from the previous year. However, he could understand not wanting to add expenses because the revenues may fall short.

Board member Chris Koetzle, who serves as the board’s liaison to the DARE program, said he supports the plan and it was also his understanding based on the meeting that the police could go forward.

The past liaison to DARE, board member Mark Quinn, said he supports the DARE program. “It teaches self-esteem and it provides a wonderful interaction from the Police Department and children at a stage I think is very important,” he said.

He said he had no problems with Ranalli moving funds around in his budget to use the overtime. He agreed that the police took a disproportionate share of the overtime cut and said the board should revisit the issue.

Board member Valerie DiGiandomenico could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Categories: Schenectady County

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