by John Pless
As Hamilton County children get ready to start a new school year some parents say it's putting a squeeze on their household budgets.
Besides new clothes and shots parents are being asked to pay "school fees" for each child. There's a whole list of fees from ten to $75 per child depending on the school. Plus there are other fees that can really add up for families with several children.
At Ooltewah Middle School the fee for each student is $55 plus extra charges depending on whether the child is in band, athletics or certain classes. For parents like Kelly Kauffman, who has three children, that's a big bite out of the family budget.
"Again," Kauffman asked. "That's more fees, another year, more fees and how are we going to come up with them again, they just keep adding up."
If you consider the Hamilton County property taxes the Kauffman's pay -- about half of that going to public schools -- those extra student fees are the equivalent of a 27% percent hike in school taxes.
"I want to know where my property taxes are going if I keep having to pay all these extra fees every year," Kauffman said.
For families where both parents work to make ends meet, this is big money. Those fees are in addition to the list of supplies parents are expected to pay for each child.
Rebekah Housley, mother of two at Ooltewah Middle School, said "it really cuts back on other things like the food budget, you know gas is already really high."
So we asked the school's central office staff what the school fees pay for. Christie Jordan, Hamilton County Department of Education Director of Accounting & Budgeting, said "the fees allow the schools do things above and beyond what they would normally be able to do with the funds that they had."
Jordan said the fees are set by each school and go directly to the classroom. She points out that there hasn't been a school tax increase in years and with the cost of everything going up the school fees help make up for cuts in the budget.
But not all parents mind the fees. Nicole DiStasio just paid $250 for her two children's at Normal Park Elementary School.
"Not at all, I'm very happy with the education they receive at Normal Park and I feel we get a lot of return on the money just for the fees," DiStasio said.
Jordan points out the fees are not mandatory and no child will be denied their public education if parents can't pay the student fees.