There is finally good news for school bullies in the Moffat County School District the cost of school lunches is going to be on the rise.
Beginning next school year, the cost for school lunches will be increased from the current $1.50 to $1.75 for students in grades one through six, and from $1.75 to $2.00 for students in grades seven through twelve.
"This puts us right in line with everyone else," said Mike Brinks, finance director for the Moffat County School District. "We were beginning to see a loss in revenue from the general fund, which we were helping to subsidize the lunch program with. This increase should help us to make the food service program self-sufficient and finally able to fund itself without any outside help."
The food services program has used anywhere from $13,000 to nearly $30,000 from the general fund to continue operating.
"Last year, the food service budget saw a deficit of $13,000," Superintendent Duane Wrightson said. "That, however, wasn't as bad as two years ago, when we were $27,000 in the red. We were able to reduce last year's losses by taking money out of the General Fund to cover our losses, but we really don't want to do that.
This is the first time in six years that the school district has raised the price of school lunches. The board voted unanimously on May 21 to increase the prices by 25 cents, a raise Brinks attributes to a few different variables: the rising cost of service both in the schools and with the companies that distribute food, the increase in gas prices and delivery, and the increased cost for food.
"Just like everything else, the cost of getting the food here has become more expensive, help has become more expensive and food itself has increased in price," he said. "We tried to make it as small of an increase as possible, and it also puts us right in line with everyone else as far as what they're charging for school lunches."
In Steamboat Springs, high school students pay $2.25 for lunch, as are students in the Eagle County School District. High school students in Grand Junction pay $2, and students in Meeker pay $1.95.
The increase should allow the food-service program a little breathing room in the near future.
"The money in the general fund is supposed to be used for educational expenses, not helping to fund our lunch program."
The extra money will help to pull the program out of financial trouble for now, however, as inflation rises, so eventually will the prices of school lunches in the future.
"I guess you could say it is going to be like any other increase that people are going to see," School board member John Wellman said. "It is going to be a wait-and-see situation as far as how this new price is going to go.
"I imagine the first few years, the food service could see a net gain, which will be followed by a few years of breaking even, and eventually, the program is going to have to see another increase," he said. "We are just hoping that we can delay that increase as long as possible."
The money that was being used to assist the school lunch program in the last two years can now go back into the general fund, and be used to help fund other educational projects throughout the district.
"Of course, the government helps to subsidize our food program, but that by itself is rarely enough to keep the program alive and financially sound," Brinks said. "We are now going to be able to put the money that we were directing there, towards other projects that will help to benefit the school district as a whole."
Wrightson also sees another factor that may have steered the board in the wrong direction when looking at the previous year's losses.
"When we moved the high school to an open campus, I think that may have sent some of the kids who previously would have eaten at school, downtown for lunch instead," he said. "It is difficult to tell, but this should keep us above water for a few years at least."