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Prices charged for meals at Sullivan schools going up

Staff Report • Feb 5, 2014 at 11:23 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County schools regular paid meals are going up roughly a dime per meal because of a federal mandate, the head of school nutrition said.

And a new nutrition job that could pay for itself in savings will not be filled until at least the next school year, the school board has decided.

Lisa Holt, manager of nutrition services, said the new prices are required because of a formula for paid lunch equity from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This would be the first increase since 2011-12.

Holt said new prices are: elementary and middle school breakfast $1.60, high school breakfast $1.75, elementary school lunch $2.10, middle school lunch $2.35 and high school lunch $2.60. All reduced breakfasts would be 30 cents and reduced lunches 40 cents.

In comparison, current prices are the same for reduced breakfasts and lunches, while all other breakfasts are $1.50, elementary school lunch $2, middle school lunch $2.25 and high school lunch $2.50.

Neighboring Kingsport City Schools has no plans to increase food prices, according to Jennifer Burleson, KCS supervisor of school nutrition services.

“We are not planning to increase prices at this point,” Burleson said via email Tuesday. “However, I have not presented my budget yet so I cannot say for certain. We increased our pricing last year.”

The KCS school nutrition budget is consistently self-supporting but faces the same federal mandates for price increases from time to time.

In a related matter, at Monday night’s county school board meeting, the board voted 7-0 against a recommendation from Director of Schools Jubal Yennie and Holt to create a new position, school nutrition field manager.

For the first time in its history, county school nutrition is in the black, and if things continue like that until year’s end won’t have to have general funds to make the school nutrition budget.

The system had hoped to have its cafeterias as a whole in the black last school year, but federally mandated menu changes that some decried as unpalatable caused participation — and thus funding — to falter.

The county school board discussed funding the new position during a 5 p.m. work session before its 6:30 p.m. meeting.

School board member Robyn Ivester lauded the work of school nutrition officials to become self supporting and said that Holt should not take the board’s unanimous vote as a slight against school nutrition’s efforts.

Rather, as board members Randall Jones and Todd Broughton said during the work session, the new position should be considered during 2013-14 budget discussions instead of in the middle of the year.

Vice Chairman Jack Bales said he supports the position, which could make the school cafeteria system even more efficient with its money, but he said waiting until the budget discussions may be best.

A “minimum of $1,200 savings as each cafeteria site this school year would cover the additional cost of the position” the Yennie and Holt proposals said.

The pay for the proposed position ranged from $28,205 to $31,857 a year or with benefits $42,123.44 to $46,602.61 a year.

“Onsite monitoring has been identified as a key component in this financial improvement,” the agenda item said. “Being that there is currently only the SN manager to conduct onsite monitoring, we would propose that another individual, acting as a field manager with monitoring and oversight as their primary job duty, would increase efficiency and cost savings even more.”

Broughton said other positions or areas might be more needed next budget year, and Jones said school nutrition could fall back in the red before the school year’s end.

In other action, the board turned down a proposal from Yennie to do some secretarial personnel shuffling that would cost up to $19,000 in general fund money this year by reassigning Innovation Academy of Northeast Tennessee’s secretary to a split position as IA bookkeeper/Ketron Elementary attendance secretary. Another central office secretary paid by federal money would be shifted to IA secretary at the current rate of pay.

Yennie said Ketron needs the extra help and the IA secretary needs the change for personal reasons, but like the nutrition position, board members said such a decision should be considered in 2014-15 budget discussions, not now.

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