Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tighter Residency Procedures Net Savings for Taxpayers

Only students who live in the county can attend Fayette County Schools. As a result of stricter student residency procedures to reinforce this rule, taxpayers have saved nearly $2 million over the last two years.

System-wide residency checks, prosecution of parents taking out false affidavits and centralized registration at the school system’s Welcome Center are measures the school system put into place last year to help thwart students attending county schools illegally.

The tougher system is working. After announcing the new procedures last year, the school system identified and withdrew 68 students who were living outside the county. This year, an additional 156 students have been removed since March 31 for not meeting residency requirements. At a cost of $8,317.86 per year to educate one child, the savings to taxpayers is $1,863,200.64.

“Our students are our number one priority and we want to assure the taxpayers of Fayette County that their tax revenues are being invested in those students who are legal residents of the county,” says Sam Sweat, assistant superintendent of school operations.

A total of 633 residency checks have been conducted for the 2007-2008 school year. Many residency checks are a result of teachers and principals reporting suspicions of students who might be living outside the county. Parents are vigilant as well about reporting possible out-of-county students to the Welcome Center. Often they will report seeing out-of-county car tags and will call the Welcome Center with tag numbers. However, it is not legal for law enforcement officials to run tag numbers when requested by the school system unless they have a cause as provided by law.

Since January 2007, all new students enrolling in the school system have been required to register at the Welcome Center located inside the LaFayette Educational Center. Streamlining the registration process has resulted in closer scrutiny of the required documents needed for registration. In order to prove residency, parents/guardians must provide a tax statement (a closing statement for new homeowners) or original signed lease agreement and a current gas or electric bill. All documents must contain the name and address of the parent/guardian. A complete listing of required documents can be reviewed online at www.fcboe.org.

Although there are some out of-county residents with Fayette addresses, the trained staff at the Welcome Center is aware of these areas and is able to redirect parents to the appropriate school system to register their children.

“I estimate that we turn down about 100 people over the course of a year with Fayette addresses who live in other counties,” says Jamie Karol of the Welcome Center.

The center uses a computerized system called Edulog that is updated regularly with current Fayette County addresses. If an address is not in the system, then the Welcome Center does not register the student. A total of 4,752 new students have been enrolled at the Welcome Center from January 2007-March 2008.

In cases where appropriate residency documents cannot be produced, such as someone moving in with a resident in the county, an affidavit must be signed by both the parent/guardian of the student and the person with whom they are living. An affidavit is a sworn document and knowingly falsifying information on it is a felony. The board of education, in conjunction with Fayette County District Attorney Scott Ballard, seeks prosecution of individuals who provide false statements on affidavits. Approximately 20 cases of affidavit violations are now pending in the court system.

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