The North Platte school board reluctantly agreed Monday to hike lunch prices by 10 cents per student next year, a move that will save the district $9,100, and cost parents an extra $15 or so per child per year.The board discussed the school lunch prices for more than 20 minutes, considering paying 5 cents of the price from district funds, but in the end, voted 4-1 to assess the 10 cents per lunch from families.
Jo Ann Lundgreen cast the lone dissenting vote, but board member Alecia Hothan expressed concern about families with 4-5 students who make too much money to qualify for reduced price lunches, subsidized by the government.
Families who earn too much to qualify for reduced price lunches of 40 cents each have to pay about $2.50 a day for their child to have lunch, Business Manager Stuart Simpson told the board when the topic came up a month ago.
That increase could certainly put a financial strain on those families, Hothan said.
In the end, board members noted that the increase is relatively modest per pupil and the district is dealing with a financial shortfall of nearly $1 million next year, compared to budget expectations.
Hothan asked Simpson to keep track of the number of daily lunches, to see if the price increase noticeably changes the eating habits of students. Simpson thanked her for the suggestion and said he would report to the board each quarter as the coming school year unfolds.
Looking farther ahead, Simpson said the district will face another 10-cent increase in the following year too – 2018-19. He gave the board the option to set policy for the next two years, but the board held off, preferring to see how the budget situation unfolds.
In response to a question from Lundgreen, Simpson said he will consult with the board’s finance committee about what to do with the $9,100 the district will save – drop it from the tax request or reallocate it to other projects, such as “Title” programs aimed to help students from families with low- to moderate-incomes, or perhaps use it to contribute to teacher’s salaries.
“I appreciate the work you put into this, Stuart,” board President Mike Morrell said.
Reduced price lunches cost 40 cents. Families who make too much money to qualify pay about $2.50 for their child to have lunch, Simpson has said.
A month ago, board member Ivan Mitchell suggested the district set up its own lunch subsidy program for families who make 5% or so more above the allowable income for reduced-price lunches.
Simpson looked into it, and said the state department of education discouraged that notion, noting the confidentiality of parental income statements.