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Richland superintendent explains tuition rates to Swedeborg
Richland superintendent explains tuition rates to Swedeborg

Joe Ridgeway, superintendent of the Richland R-IV School District, explains his district's tuition rate policies at Monday night's Swedeborg R-III School District board meeting.
SWEDEBORG, Mo. (Nov. 12, 2008) — Most Swedeborg students go to Richland High School after they graduate from eighth grade in the Swedeborg R-III School District, and that means Swedeborg must pay tuition of $5,800 per year for those who attend Richland High School.

That’s much higher than $4,300 for those who attend Crocker High School but less than $8,433 for those who attend Waynesville High School. However, it’s still a major burden for the small Swedeborg district with a budget of only $689,000 this year, and Swedeborg board members invited Richland R-IV School District Superintendent Joe Ridgeway to their Monday night meeting to explain his district’s tuition policies.

Ridgeway said Richland High School now has 15 Swedeborg students enrolled.

“Our numbers are down from four or five years ago, probably about like your numbers are going down, and that’s going to eventually affect us financially,” Ridgeway said. “Financially we aren’t the most stable district, either, in the area, and that’s what we need to look at when we set our tuition rates. I don’t want to put any more burden on your district financially than we can help.”

Ridgeway presented documents showing that it cost $7,346 per student to provide education in Richland in 2006-07, and will be about $400 more this year. The district’s budget didn’t reflect that reality until recently, Ridgeway said.

“In 2005-06 we deficit-spent about $182 per student. That was the year before I took over as superintendent … until I took over, we had deficit-spent about three or four years in a row and our fund balances had been in decline,” Ridgeway said. “What I’m trying to say is we have to look at the amount of money we are taking in and spending.”

Richland has especially low fund balances as a result of deficit spending, he said — 5.82 percent last year and 6.82 percent this year.

“This year, we look much stronger financially; not to give you any inclination what we may do, but we are going to look at some options, and one of them is to consider freezing the tuition,” Ridgeway said. “A lot of that decision may depend on how we look financially.”

Swedeborg Board President Chris Black asked how a tuition freeze would work.

“The amount we’re talking about this year is $4,500. That would be the savings if my board, when we meet next week, is interested in freezing tuition at last year’s rate,” Ridgeway said.

Ridgeway noted that his board will meet next Monday and reminded Swedeborg board members that at least one member of his school board is a Swedeborg graduate.

“And we have at least five board members, maybe more, who are graduates of Richland,” Black said.

Swedeborg board member Jamie Alexander noted that the Richland per-student figures include transportation, but Swedeborg pays the bill for transportation to Richland High School. Ridgeway said he was aware of that issue, but wasn’t sure of the Swedeborg transportation cost so he didn’t calculate that figure.

Despite the cost, Ridgeway said he believed the education provided at Richland was a good value for Swedeborg students.

“I know that Waynesville is an exorbitant amount of tuition — it’s something like $8,000 to go to Waynesville and I know you have some students who go to Waynesville as well,” Ridgeway said. “I think your kids get a lot of opportunities when they go to Richland with athletics and sports and academics, and I hope we can continue a good relationship.”

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