By Tessa Raebeck
For the parents of 40 non-resident students attending Sag Harbor Elementary School or Pierson Middle/High School, the privilege of sending their children to school in the village may come at a higher price tag next year.
At the Sag Harbor Board of Education meeting Tuesday night, school business administrator John O’Keefe presented proposed non-resident tuition rates for the 2013 to 2014 school year. The board considered a 2.5 percent increase in the rates, which have not been changed for three years.
The current rates “were based on 2008 to 2009 rates that were discounted,” according to O’Keefe. The State Education Department (SED) posts non-resident tuition rates on their website as a guideline for districts to follow. Those rates are indicative of what “they say it costs us to run our program,” O’Keefe told the board.
Currently, the school district charges $16,217 for regular placement, non-resident students in grades kindergarten through sixth, and $44,196 for special education students in those grades. For non-resident students in grades seven through 12, the tuition is $21,080 for regular placement students and $50,808 for grades seven through 12.
The standing Sag Harbor rates charge non-residents 80 percent of the 2008 to 2009 state recommended non-resident rates for grades kindergarten through sixth and 85 percent of what is recommended for grades seven through 12.
The state recommends a tuition rate of $22,261 for regular placement students in kindergarten through sixth grade and a special education tuition rate of $76,984. It recommends a $22,543 tuition rate for students in seventh through 12 grade and a special education rate for $77,266 for those grades.
The SED posted rates for regular placement students in Sag Harbor are $22,261 for grades kindergarten through sixth and $22,543 for grades seven through 12. For special education students, the rates are $76,984 for grades kindergarten through sixth and $77,266 for grades seven through 12.
“With Springs and Sagaponack, we have standing contracts that go through the end of the 2016 school year,” explained O’Keefe. “Those contracts state that we cannot increase the rate more than 2.5% per year or the SED posted non-resident tuition rate.”
If the current rates were raised by 2.5 percent for those districts, the tuition rate would still be “lower than the SED posted non-resident rate, so that would be permissible,” O’Keefe said.
With the proposed 2.5 percent increase, regular placement tuition rates would be $16,622 for grades kindergarten through sixth and $21,607 for grades seven through 12. For special education students, the new rates would be $45,301 for grades kindergarten through sixth and $52,078 for grades seven through 12.
O’Keefe said most other districts are charging similar tuition rates.
In the Southampton School District, “they do reduce their rates as well, but not as far as ours,” said O’Keefe. “Southampton discounts their rates 15% off [the posted SED rates] for regular education and 25% off for special education.”
East Hampton’s rates are also higher. Springs currently pays East Hampton around $25,000 per student, according to O’Keefe. At the Ross School, tuition for grades kindergarten through fourth “is almost $32,000, so our elementary is almost half.”
According to O’Keefe, if the district raised its non-resident tuition rates by 2.5 percent, it would amount in about $22,000 in additional income.
“We know we have a fantastic school district,” said vice president of the board Chris Tice. “We want to be an affordable choice.”
“At the very least, I would think it would be appropriate to raise the rates to the two neighboring districts, in terms of the contract,” suggested O’Keefe.
Board member Mary Anne Miller reminded the board of the importance of non-resident students to school programs.
“Having them here is a plus for us in many ways,” said Miller. “I’m in favor of the 2.5 and I’m in favor of it across the board.”
The school board will vote on the resolution on May 20th.