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Trustees Cool to City Crossing-Guard Pact

September 19, 1996|KATE FOLMAR

Citing concerns about liability and future costs, Simi Valley school trustees say they aren't satisfied with a city plan to pay for most of the $188,800 in salaries and benefits for 20 crossing guards stationed at elementary schools.

Even though the proposed city contract only left the Simi Valley Unified School District with a $5 bill, trustees said Tuesday night that crossing guards fall under the rubric of public safety, not schooling, so the city should cover the whole tab.

The five-member school board returned the unsigned contract to the council.

While expressing her appreciation to the City Council, board President Judy Barry said crossing guards are "a traffic issue, not an educational issue."

Added trustee Diane Collins: "It's hard enough to educate children. Keeping them safe in the streets is more than we should be asked to do."

The city has traditionally shouldered all costs for the crossing-guard service, but Mayor Greg Stratton decided to reevaluate that policy this year in light of a recent change in state law. According to the new regulations, cities are not explicitly instructed to pay for crossing guards, nor are they prohibited from doing so.

As the city's proposal is written, the school district would chip in a mere $5 for the crossing guards this school year. Trying not to appear mercenary, each of the five City Council members ponied up a dollar at a recent meeting for the school district.

Trustees said they appreciated the gesture but not the contract, which trustee Norm Walker called "poorly drafted."

The school officials said they were concerned about a clause that exempts the city from crossing-guard-related lawsuit liability and places that responsibility with the school district. A clause that set the city's baseline funding obligation at $188,800 for this and future school years was also disputed.

Trustees Collins and Barry again will meet with city officials Tuesday to hammer out a more agreeable contract. "We are not completely closing the doors to everything," Barry said.

A crossing guard outside Justin Elementary School, 70-year-old Ray Orsini, CQsaid he is sure the city and the school board will settle their differences soon.

"The city has always made my paycheck," the veteran crossing guard said. "And what more can you say about that? The checks have always been good."

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