Boyle Schools could increase meal prices next year

Published 7:14 pm Monday, June 17, 2019

Boyle County Board of Education could decide next month on 15-cent increases for breakfasts and lunches at the middle and high schools.

The increases would take breakfast from $1.35 to $1.50 and lunch from $2.60 to $2.75. Prices at Woodlawn Elementary School would remain the same at $1.35 and $2.30 respectively. The school board has not voted on the proposed increases; they were recommended last week by Director of Food Services Katie Ellis, Superintendent Mike LaFavers and Director of Finance David Morris. The board could vote on the proposal at its July meeting.

Ellis said a meal-price calculator tool the district is supposed to use already estimates Boyle County should be charging $3 per meal. “We are able to pass a bit of a benefit onto our families (by keeping the prices lower), but we know that we have some incredible expenditures coming at us in the next year, so we wanted to be mindful of the fiscal responsibilities of the program.”

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Those new costs include:

• an estimated $16,000 state-mandated increase in retirement payments for food service employees;

• an estimated $100,000 to replace the Boyle County High School freezer and cooler;

• about $35,000 for new hardware and point-of-sale software at all food-service sites;

• a $20,000 reduction in the funding through the school district’s commodity entitlement; and

• a $35,000 increase in food-supply costs at Junction City and Perryville elementary schools, at which all meals are free for students.

“All of these things are coming at one time and we really want to be as good stewards with our funds as we can, but also evaluate our meal prices in the process,” Ellis said.

The replacement of the high-school freezer and cooler is a necessity because of the deterioration of the existing unit, she said. “It’s a food-safety and physical safety risk that we really want to go ahead and take care of.”

The $100,000 price tag is based on the $43,000 it cost to replace a smaller freezer at Perryville Elementary recently, and the fact that the pad underneath the high-school unit may need work, Ellis explained.

The district’s point-of-sale system is too old to function well anymore and must be replaced, she said. “We have to make that move by the end of this year.”

A 15-cent increase to lunch prices at the high and middle schools would bring in an estimated $13,000 in revenue, Ellis said. “We had looked at the possibility of a 20-cent increase and I worried about the decrease in participation at that threshold.”

Ellis said a 15-cent increase on breakfasts “better aligns our price with what we’re offering students.”

“We have worked really hard to build our breakfast program, particularly here at the high school,” she said. “We have much more choice every day and high-quality products.”

Free meals

Ellis also walked the board through an analysis of whether the district could make all student meals free at Woodlawn Elementary, as it already has done at Junction City and Perryville elementary schools.

The district can afford free meals school-wide in Junction and Perryville because of the federal community eligibility program (CEP). The CEP reimburses schools extra money for each meal served to a student who qualifies for a free or reduced-price meal because of family income or another qualifying factor. If a school has a high enough percentage of students receiving free or reduced-price meals, the extra reimbursements can be enough to cover most or all of the cost of making all meals free for all students.

Ellis said because Woodlawn has fewer students getting free or reduced-price meals, it would cost the district more than $119,000 next year to implement the CEP at Woodlawn. Ellis also analyzed what the cost would be if the district just lowered the price of breakfasts and lunches on its own — from $1.35 to 75 cents for breakfast and from $2.30 to $1 for lunch. That would add an extra approximately $92,000 in cost for the district, she said.

Those cost estimates are also probably on the low end, because growth in the number of students would make them increase, Ellis noted.

Superintendent Mike LaFavers said the school district has been working toward the goal of making all meals free for students at all elementary schools.

“Our goal is to get there — every elementary kid eats for free — we just don’t think right now, we’re in a position to do it,” LaFavers said. “But these numbers change every year and we would want to take another look at it.

“Now, if the board says, ‘Hey, we want to go anyway; we’re going to budget for it, we’re going to do it.’ We’re (looking at) $119,000 and the potential that it’s even higher than that. It’s a scary number. And once you do it, you’re probably committing to it long-term.”