SALEM — The School Department — not the town — will pay for school resource officers next year, ending the debate over who should pick up the bill.
The officers have been included in the proposed $59.9 million gross school budget approved unanimously by the School Board this week. The Budget Committee begins its review of the plan, which calls for a 1.6 percent increase, on Dec. 7. Residents will vote on the final budget in March.
But the issue of whether the town or the school district should pay for the three school officers has been a contentious subject for the last few months.
The town now funds the officers, who are supervised by the Police Department.
The three positions were targeted for elimination in Town Manager Keith Hickey's proposed $41.9 million budget for next year. It was decided the three officers would help beef up street patrols.
Selectmen restored the positions at the last minute and agreed three new officers would be added to the police force.
Selectmen and the School Board agreed to split the cost, but asked Hickey and School Superintendent Michael Delahanty to negotiate further.
Delahanty then proposed the district pay the $231,285 cost for the three new police officers since the town already picked up the $285,365 cost of the school officers.
Some selectmen, including Stephen Campbell, harshly criticized the plan.
He said the school district would be paying close to $56,000 less than the town, while not picking up the full cost, he said.
The town would still have to foot liability costs, Campbell said.
"There is a lot more to bringing on additional employees than the weekly paycheck," he said Wednesday.
Delahanty said it wasn't worth dragging out the issue any longer.
"We weren't going to let that hang up the importance of providing these officers to our schools and our school community, he said Wednesday.