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Out-of-city tuition hike is approved
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The Gainesville school board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to increase annual out-of-city student tuition for a one-child family from $450 to $585 for next school year.

The $135 nonresident tuition increase came after the board considered the tuition hike amount for months. Three well-attended public hearings regarding the issue were held in the fall.

When the school board raised Gainesville property taxes 12 percent last year, city residents clamored it was unfair that students living outside the city were not required to foot a similar cost increase for city school services.

With school board member Sammy Smith dissenting, the school board passed a new nonresident tuition schedule Monday. The new rates require a family living outside Gainesville to fork over $585 for one child to attend Gainesville schools and $495 for the second.

Yet a tuition-paying family who owns property or a business in Gainesville gets a small break. That family is required to pay $500 for the first child to attend and $410 for the second. Another change allows families to make tuition payments quarterly, rather than in a lump sum due at the beginning of each school year.

The tuition hike will rake in about $48,000 more than the current tuition rates bring in now, according to school board member Maria Calkins.

According to a tuition impact study the school system conducted in August, there are 408 tuition students attending Gainesville schools this school year.

The board determined earlier this month that it will maintain its policy of allowing the roughly 145 children of Gainesville school system employees who live outside the city to continue attending Gainesville schools without paying tuition.

Smith voted against the tuition hike.

“This figure does not reflect the value I believe that comes from a year’s experience of being in our schools,” Smith said.

He said he believed the tuition should be higher to be comparable with out-of-district tuition rates for similar-sized school districts.

Amanda Anderson, a Habersham County resident with two children in Gainesville schools, said she felt the final tuition figures are fair.

“I believe at this time it’s fair compared to what was offered on the table,” she said, referring to a previous proposal that called for tuition to be doubled to $900 for some students.

Anderson said, however, that she is not certain if she will continue to keep her third-grader and first-grader enrolled at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy after this school year. She said it’s the instability of the tuition schedule that challenges her wallet and peace of mind.

“If I have to go through this every year ... I’m not going to do this,” Anderson said. “I’ll either homeschool my children or send them to (Habersham) County (schools).”

Gainesville school board chairman David Syfan said the new tuition rate applies to the 2009-2010 school year only, and the board may determine new tuition figures next year depending on state funding and the economy.