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Board can't agree on lunch prices for next year

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

It’s no surprise the cost of milk and bread are escalating, but the Brunswick County Board of Education can’t agree on how to handle the inflation.

Earlier this month, the board tabled a request to raise school lunch prices after Tina Ward, director of child nutrition services, said the department was operating with a deficit of $107,919.49 as of Jan. 1. Ward suggested the increase to try and balance the budget and retain a three-month operating balance. The increase would also help offset grocery costs, which will rise to 8 percent next school year, Ward said.

Ward recommended the board raise student meal prices to $1.20 for breakfast for all grades, $1.80 for elementary lunch, and $2 for middle and high school lunch. The meal increase would not affect students receiving free or reduced lunch.

If meal prices were not increased, child nutrition would lose an estimated $90,000 over the 2008-2009 school year, Ward said.

Ward provided the board with a list of eight surrounding school districts. Of them, only two chose not to increase meal prices.

Superintendent Katie McGee explained at the board’s committee meetings Tuesday prices have not been raised since 2005, and an increase is going to be necessary as fuel and grocery costs continue to rise.

“I do not like to see anything increase,” she said. “[Cost of food] is most likely going to continue to increase. It could impact our kids even more then.”

McGee said she would normally recommend a 5-cent increase per year, but as prices have not increased in three years, this increase would get the department to where it needs to be.

Board member Ray Gilbert previously spoke against the increase and did again Tuesday.

“I think it’s a bad idea to raise prices right now,” he said. “It is tight out here in this economy.”

Gilbert again suggested the board pay the difference from the general fund balance, but McGee said that money was for emergency situations, and it was a bad idea to be without money in case of such situations.

Board chairwoman Shirley Babson said she was going to vote for an increase.

“I know it sounds good not to increase it 20 cents, but we got to look at the big picture,” she said.

Board member Jimmy Hobbs asked Ward for figures for a 10-cent increase, half of what she asked the board for. Board member Charlie Miller said he would also like to see those figures.

The board is to have those figures at the June 3 meeting, where the item will be back on the agenda.