Lunch menu fees increasing

Students eating lunch provided by the Wapakoneta City Schools cafeteria will be paying more for those meals beginning next school year.

Prices for lunches at the elementary school are increasing by 5 cents to $2.40 for kindergarten through fourth-grade students for the 2012-13 school year.

There are to be no other meal price increases planned at this time.

“Pretty much every year from now on we can expect those prices to increase,” Wapakoneta City Schools Food Supervisor Lori McKean said.

The increase is due to a weighted average lunch price calculation mandated by the federal government since 2010.

“It’s based on the price plus the number sold,” McKean said. “In order to comply we had to raise the price. The federal government doesn’t want reduced and free reimbursements sponsoring our paid lunches.”         

Forty-two percent of the district’s students receive free and reduced meals with the district reimbursed $1.80 for reduced lunches and $2.41 for free lunches.

She said new menu patterns, also required by the federal government, would have added up to a larger increase in lunch costs, if they hadn’t gone ahead and raised prices now.

McKean said it is not fair to the more than 50 percent of the students that pay full price.

“Even if we don’t want to raise the cost, we are required,” school board member Eric McKinniss said.

District Treasurer Susan Rinehart said Wapakoneta City Schools would lose its subsidy if they failed to comply.

“It’s really a Catch-22,” school board member Pat Gibson said. “As the number of reduced numbers goes up, subsidies go up and we have to raise prices.”

Wapakoneta City Schools Superintendent Keith Horner said for those families with multiple children, lunch prices eat into the budget quickly.

For 2012-13 at Wapakoneta City Schools, elementary breakfast prices are to remain at $1.20, middle school breakfast prices at $1.45, and high school breakfast prices at $1.55, while middle school lunch prices stay steady at $2.50 and high school lunch prices at $2.60. Adult lunches are $3.

Reduced breakfast costs are 30 cents and reduced lunch costs 40 cents.

School fees for the 2012-13 school year reflect both increases and decreases for students at different grade levels.

“Last year compared to this year, a couple went up and a couple went down,” Horner said.

He said the district is allowed to charge for consumable items, including workbooks and other materials used at school, as well as some supplies needed for DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) testing.

“The reason it changes every year is because we might do it a little different, maybe use a new book series, add something or take something away,” Horner said.

Decreasing are kindergarten fees by $3 to $36, first-grade fees by $6 to $53, and third-grade fees by $2 to $68. Second-grade fees are staying the same at $70 and fourth-grade fees are increasing by $8 to $60.

Middle school fees for fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders are staying the same at $40, $40 and $50, respectively, while high school fees vary depending on class schedules.

“We are trying to keep those fees down,” Horner said, noting the fees could  actually be higher.

With school fees for students who qualify for free and reduced lunches waived by the district, Rinehart said the district is losing more than $32,362 in fees not paid by those students.

“We could pro-rate the fees for those receiving reduced lunches but we haven’t done that,” Rinehart said.

She said it may be something they need to look into further with ongoing financial concerns.

“We had just always waived it, figuring if they are on reduced lunches, they probably don’t have the money to pay that either,” Rinehart said.