Hernando School Board split over speed of school lunch price increase

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando School District's approach to increasing lunch prices could come down to one School Board member's vote.

Of four members present at Tuesday's workshop, two said they favored increasing the prices gradually over the next three years to comply with a new federal law; two said they wanted to increase the rates in one swoop. The fifth board member, John Sweeney, was absent.

The board is expected to formally vote on the increase at its June 5 meeting.

Passed in 2010, the law requires districts to charge enough that the revenue from students who pay for their lunches is sufficient to cover the expenses to provide those meals. Federal dollars received for the free and reduced-price meal program cannot subsidize the cost of meals for students who pay full price, food and nutrition services director Lori Drenth told the board.

To comply with the law, Drenth said, the Hernando district must raise the elementary lunch price by 30 cents, to $2, and the middle and high school lunch price by a quarter, to $2.25.

One option is to increase the prices by the full amount right away, effective next school year.

The law also gives districts that are not in compliance the option to get there gradually by raising prices by a minimum of 10 cents each year. Hernando's elementary lunch prices would rise by 10 cents each year, reaching $2 by the 2014-15 school year. The middle and high school rates would increase by 10 cents over the next two years and then by a nickel in 2014-15.

Cynthia Moore and Vice Chairman Matt Foreman favored the first option.

"Just bring it to where we need to be," Foreman said. "When you look at the increments over the course of a year, we're not talking about a ton of money."

Members Dianne Bonfield and James Yant supported the gradual increases, limiting the impact on family budgets.

The price increases would affect thousands of families. Of the district's roughly 22,500 students, about 8,300 now are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, Drenth said. Of those, about 6,200, or 75 percent, purchase meals.

Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or tmarrero@tampabay.com.

Hernando School Board split over speed of school lunch price increase 05/15/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 15, 2012 9:20pm]

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