The Reynoldsburg Board of Education agreed last week to keep school fees the same for the 2008-09 year, although member Andrew Swope asked whether they should be charged at all for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The Reynoldsburg Board of Education agreed last week to keep school fees the same for the 2008-09 year, although member Andrew Swope asked whether they should be charged at all for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

The tally was 6-1, with board President Cheryl Max, not Swope, casting the lone negative vote.

"In a time when we're making cuts, this is probably not the time to vote against something that actually brings revenue into the district, but I agree with what he said," Max said at the board's June 10 meeting. "We're supposed to be supplying supplies for education, and these are not supplies that are above and beyond things that you need to be successful as a first-grader or a second-grader.

"I've always felt that we should have been supplying those items all along," she said.

The fees are: $12.50 for kindergarten, $25 for grades one through four, $30 for grades five and six, and $35 for grades seven through 12.

Treasurer Mitch Biederman said the fees go into a uniform school supplies account. Based on last year's numbers, the fees brought in an estimated $104,800 in revenue from kindergarten through eighth grade students. He said the fees from high school students brought in an estimated $67,100, including the athletic program's pay-to-play fee of $30 per student.

Swope said the academic fees parents pay for workbooks and supplies for students in kindergarten through eighth grade need to be given a closer look.

"There are some programs at the high school that have additional requirements, whether it be ceramics or photography, and that may warrant a fee, but when we're paying fees for workbooks at the kindergarten level, I have a problem with that," Swope said. "I think our tax dollars should cover those, and I think we really need to look into whether these fees, especially at the kindergarten through the eighth-grade level, are warranted."

He said he realizes that the district is looking at $2.2-million in cuts for the next year, but he has always believed that public education should be provided by the school district on a no-cost basis.

"I know I'm on the finance committee and we're looking for cutbacks, and at this point this is probably not a popular opinion, to reduce an area of revenue, but I think the mere fact that education is supposed to be provided by our tax dollars, but these are additional fees for required workbooks or required supplies -- I just don't understand it," Swope said.

Superintendent Steve Dackin said these types of school fees are found in many other districts but he said he will take a closer look at them.

"Certainly, we can look at what we're doing and at minimizing out-of-pocket cost to our parents with respect to the education of our children," Dackin said.

Swope said he voted in favor of the increased fees because he wants to keep them in place for now until the district can examine them with an eye toward either reducing them or eliminating them altogether for K-8 students.

In other business, board member Chip Martin said it's important that residents understand the difference between a bond issue and an operating levy.

"During the 2006 bond campaign which failed, I learned that a bond is different than an operating levy and want to make sure the district begins to communicate the importance of educating the community on the difference because some may not understand it," Martin said. "We're amiss, as we are excited now about Reynoldsburg Reach and about getting new buildings and everything else, but we need to constantly remind ourselves that we need operating funds."

Martin said it is important to remind the community that although the approval of the March 4 bond issue was great for the district in terms of being able to pay for new buildings and upgrades, bond money cannot be used for to cover operating expenses, which include such things as teachers' salaries and the district's overhead.

"As a community, we've got to bone up on learning about school finances as much as we can and then get out and talk to fellow community members about the differences so they clearly understand that there is a difference and there is a need here," Martin said. "The last thing we need …is to get to the year 2011 and find we've got everything opened but can't run the programs any more.

"With the $2.2-million cuts that are proposed, we've cut as far as we can cut now and we've been proactive," Martin said. "If we have to go into the next year to cover cuts, it will affect programs and affect our kids. Especially with these difficult financial times, we still have to make the decisions to keep our quality schools and keep our teachers and programs for the kids and make this district what we know it can be … and that potential can only be fulfilled with operating funds."