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Frontier Central School meal prices will increase, by the start of the school year

FRONTIER — Frontier School District students paying for meals will have to dig deeper in their pockets, starting this upcoming academic year. On both elementary and secondary levels, breakfast and lunch prices will be increased by 50 cents, beginning in September, a hike that could expand to as much as $1 more expensive, by the end of 2013 – 14.

Breakfast prices across the board are slated to be $1.75 for the first semester, growing in cost from the 2012 – 13 amount of $1.25. Lunch prices for elementary and secondary students will cost $2.50 and $2.75, increasing from previous amounts of $2 and $2.25, per meal. The Frontier Central School Board unanimously approved these hikes, during its Aug. 6 meeting, after several members expressed some frustrations.

Susan Birmingham, who serves as the district’s director of food service, explained the proposed price increases, along with School Business Manager Richard Calipari. The presenters said that the price hike proposals were generated by raises in employee labor and benefit costs, as well as federal government mandates regarding the cost of food.

Such items were said to present a shortfall of $150,325 in the food service budget to the district. A proposal to the board had initially suggested that lunch prices be increased by $1. That scenario was said to eliminate the aforementioned financial shortfall, although several board members objected to the possibility of presenting to the public the statement of $1 increase for lunches.

Other scenarios Birmingham presented to district officials included raising meal prices by a flat rate of 50 cents, for the entire 2013 – 14 year, which would shorten the financial shortfall to slightly more than $75,000; raising meal prices by 50 cents initially, in the first semester, and then by an additional 50 cents, during the second semester, bringing the end-of-year meal cost to $3.25 and limiting the eventual financial shortfall to $37,581 or not raising meal prices at all and incurring the entire budgetary shortfall of more than $150,000, while finding another means of gap coverage.

Board Member Jack Chiappone proposed a resolution to increase meal prices by 50 cents, which the board as a whole eventually agreed upon, via roll call vote.

Fellow Board Member Thomas Best Jr. noted the difficulty of proposing a meal price hike of any significance to the public. The board announced that comparative data of other school districts’ lunch prices would be presented, in the near future.

Best asked, if other local districts are paying less to serve meals to their students, “how do we explain this?” He said that, if prices were comparably higher, the cost increase might be easier to explain.

The board said that meal price changes will be made public, through the district’s newsletter. The cost of a-la-carte items will also go up.

District Superintendent James Bodziak, who is retiring from his post in September, recommended that the board pursue the option of raising meal prices 50 cents initially and re-examining the issue in December or January, when it could decide whether or not to raise prices by an additional 50 cents.

He also recommended that district officials create a food service committee, comprised of Birmingham, district parents and Frontier Central Teachers Association members.

Minor increases to the elementary and secondary lunch costs had been implemented since 2010 – 11, when elementary school lunches cost $1.75 and secondary lunches, $2. In addition to the just-enacted price hikes, the district portal site will now allow for parents of 2013 –14 students to add money to their children’s lunch accounts, as well as view meal/price transactions.

The board also unanimously passed the proposed food service budget of $1,914,545. Birmingham expressed frustration with the federal government’s mandates, such as new snack regulations’ going into effect in 2014 – 15, as well as curtailing vending machine products for sale, resulting in loss of revenues. Federal mandates also include automatic rises in certain food item costs.

“They’ve really got our hands tied,” Birmingham said, in regard to federal regulations. “They can hold up [assistance] money, if regulations aren’t followed. They’re making it impossible to do good business.”

Birmingham added that food service labor is cut, each year, based on fewer meals’ being served. She added that, if more layoffs occur, the food service area would not have enough staff to both serve students meals and work the cash register.

Other district officials expressed dissatisfaction with the amount of extended hours and increased payroll accrued by substitute food service staff.

In another note, the “Breakfast of Champions” events will not be held at Frontier in 2013 – 14.

The board also approved the reinstatement of one full-time remedial reading position on the elementary level. Each of the four district elementary schools has two remedial reading teachers.

Placement of the newly-reinstated position will depend on ELA state assessment tests from 2012 – 13, slated to be presented to the district.

The elementary school or schools showing a lack of 3 and 4 scores could be given preference for the remedial reading teacher.

The next Frontier School Board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 20 at the Frontier Educational Center, located at 5120 Orchard Ave. in Hamburg.

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