If you pay for your children's school lunches, you'll have to ante up a little more this year.
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The DeKalb County Board of Education Thursday night voted to increase the price of school lunches 10 cents, going from $1.25 to $1.35 for pre-kindergarten students to third graders and from $1.50 to $1.60 for fourth through twelfth graders. Breakfast prices will remain the same at $1.00 for all students.
Stephanie Walker, School Nutrition Supervisor had actually recommended that the prices be increased by twenty five cents due to the rise in food costs but at least some board members felt that was a little too much for now. "The only reason that I'm asking for a quarter increase is that USDA, using the current rates of inflation, says if a school system charges as much as $2.46 for a paid lunch it would not be required to increase prices. They want us to increase by at least five cents. The only reason I'm asking for a quarter (increase) is to cover us for about the next three years so I won't have to ask for it again. This is a requirement through USDA that we do that to reach eventually $2.46, which I feel we're far away from, but it is a plan for the future," said Walker.
Walker said by increasing prices now, it will hopefully prevent the food service budget from going into the red in the future. "This is also hopefully to try not to get in the red. A lot of schools feel like they will go in the red and that they will use their a la carte money to cover them for those months that they go in the red. A la carte is just individual items sold within the schools such as french fries. If you get a meal and you wanted an extra french fry, that would cost fifty cents and that's considered a la carte. So they're using their a la carte process to cover them going into the red. However, we don't sell a lot of a la carte. Our main school is the high school where we provide a la carte. Every now and then in the elementary schools they can buy an extra meal, but that's about all we do. So this is just to decrease the potential of going into the red," said Walker
Even with the increase, Walker said DeKalb County will be in line with or below what most other school systems in the area charge for school lunches and many of them are also raising prices . "I feel like we have done a really good job at keeping our lunch prices as low as we can and out of the county comparisons in the area that I have provided you (school board) only three are not going up (on prices) that were the same price as us," said Walker
When asked by board member Johnny Lattimore if she would feel comfortable with only a ten cent increase, Walker said it would be much easier in making change with a quarter. "The reason that I chose not to do a dime is because of the volume of kids coming through the lunch line and the amount of change that we have to deal with. Its just better if they deal with quarters," said Walker.
Board member Bruce Parsley said he was concerned about the increased costs being passed on to the parents in a quarter versus a dime. "I've got three kids in the school system and I've got a friend who has five kids in the system and the difference between a dime and a quarter over a year's time is close to two hundred dollars," said Parsley.
Lattimore added "I would be more in favor of going with a dime (increase) right now and if we need another dime next year, come back and get another dime," he said.
More than sixty percent of DeKalb County students qualify for either free or reduced priced meals which means much of the school system's food service budget is supported by federal funds under this assistance program. The rest is borne locally by those who can afford to buy their own breakfasts and lunches. The food service budget does not receive any local property or sales tax dollars to operate.
In other business, Director of Schools Mark Willoughby presented his monthly update on personnel.
Jimmy Sprague has been employed as an interim Transportation Manager
Penelope Mason has resigned
Michelle Fontanez, DCHS teacher has resigned
Jonathan Fontanez, Secondary Supervisor of Instruction has resigned
Amy Tobitt, DCHS teacher, has been granted a leave of absence as requested.