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Gainesville school board to take up issue of tuition hike

Monday's meeting will look at options

POSTED: January 2, 2009 12:04 a.m.

The Gainesville school board will revisit the issue of altering out-of-city tuition rates at its Monday meeting.

Sammy Smith, a member of the school board’s finance committee, said he and fellow committee board member Kelvin Simmons will introduce options to the school board regarding possible changes in the Gainesville school system’s tuition structure. Presently, students who live outside Gainesville city limits and attend Gainesville schools are allowed to do so at an annual cost of $450.

“I believe the board would like for the tuition structure to reflect the value of the academic instruction that we believe these students receive,” Smith said.

Traditionally, parents of out-of-district students are required to fork over tuition at the beginning of each school year.

At its July board meeting, the school board asked Gainesville schools interim Superintendent Merrianne Dyer to review tuition rates. Based on a tuition study conducted in July and August last year, Dyer said if the board decides to increase tuition, she recommended the board raise the tuition rate to $504 with payment due in January.

Dyer said the $54 increase is proportional to the 12 percent property tax increase the board implemented this fall for Gainesville residents.

Smith said the school board will discuss tuition rates Monday, and will likely vote on the rate schedule at its Jan. 19 board meeting. He said the public can contact school board members during the two weeks between the meetings to offer input.

Smith said he believes there’s general agreement among the board members that if the board adopts new tuition rates, they would not go into effect until July 1.

Smith said the committee has been studying other school systems that allow for out-of-area tuition students, such as Buford, Decatur, Marietta, Dalton and Calhoun schools. He said the committee also held three public hearings on the tuition structure this past fall, all of which had about 60 people in attendance.

Smith said those at the hearings voiced concerns about taking on a greater tuition fee in the current economy. School system employees said they hoped to retain tuition waivers for their children who attended the school system.

“And equally, we heard from city taxpayers who believe a low tuition structure subsidizes a valuable education for students who do not live in the city,” Smith said.

Members of the board have said they would like to get the tuition matter settled in January to allow time to incorporate any resulting revenue changes into the school system’s budgeting process.

According to the study Dyer presented to the school board in August, there are 408 tuition students enrolled in the Gainesville school system. Tuition students make up nearly 7 percent of the school system’s roughly 6,000-student population.



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