School board approves cost increase for school meals

By SHERIDAN ROY

STAFF WRITER

The Southington Board of Education approved $0.25 increases to school breakfasts and lunches across all grade levels to begin in the 2019-20 school year. The last school lunch price increase was in school year 2015-16, and the last breakfast price increase was in school year 2009-10.

The new school lunch prices are: $3 for elementary schools, $3.25 for middle schools and $3.50 for the high school. The new breakfast prices are: $2 for elementary schools and middle schools, and $2.25 for the high school.

“[The administration’s] belief is that not only have food costs gone up, but delivery has also increased,” said Southington Public Schools director of finance and business Sherri DiNello. “In addition, overall wages have increased for employees. In order to keep the program viable, we are proposing that increase.”

BOE member Colleen Clark said costs to run the program have increased, but the price of school lunch has stayed the same.

“I think if we wait a few years and have an increase of $0.25, then we don’t have to increase it again for another few years,” said Clark.

Walter Derynoski cast the only dissenting vote to the price increase, stating an annual increase of a smaller amount would be preferable.

“This is a big increase all at one time,” he said. “I know we can’t go forever without an increase, but having an increase of this size every three years might not sound like a lot to us, but to a lot of people it is.”

Derynoski suggested that, going forward, the administration should consider if there is a need for price increases on an ongoing basis, “rather than having it accumulate over time and coming up with a bigger increase.”

DiNello said the increased costs would help when it comes to necessary renovations in schools’ kitchens. She said the proposed increase could result in approximately $60,000 in additional revenue, and pointed out that repairs from just two years ago cost approximately $90,000.

“The state’s recommendation in regards to a fund balance is that it is prudent to have three months of funds. Our balance is where it should be,” she said. “Having said that, knowing costs are increasing, we’d like to maintain that. The other concern is aging of equipment. We are in need of beginning to replace a lot of those appliances.”

On average, 432 breakfasts are sold per day and around 2,100 lunches are sold per day across the Southington school system.

For each student who buys lunch at school every single day, the cost increase would total $45 over the course of the school year. Students who benefit from the free or reduced school lunch and breakfast program would not be effected by the cost increase.

BOE chair Brian Goralski asked that administration pay close attention to the effects of the cost increase, and to bring back costs of replacing equipment so a plan can be formulated.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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