Meal prices, fees set for school year

Staff reporter

The board of education of USD 410 doesn't want to make tough economic times for families even tougher.

The board met July 14 to make the necessary decisions associated with the start of another school year. Among those decisions were whether to increase meal prices.

Meal prices haven't increased since the 2002-03 school year but the price of food has.

Business manager Jerry Hinerman reported that the district will subsidize the budget $58,000 this year and an estimated $78,000 next year at the current prices.

"Our prices are high compared with other districts," superintendent Doug Huxman said.

However, it appears to be the norm for school districts to subsidize meal programs.

Current prices are $1.25 for breakfast for all students, $1.90 for lunch for grades K-5, $2.25 for grades 6-12, $3 for staff, and $3.50 for visitors.

The average price for lunch meals in the state is $1.70, Hinerman said.

It was estimated that 75-90 percent of the students, depending on the grades, eat at the schools.

Board president Rod Koons asked if meal prices aren't increased this year, "Are we going to get ourselves in the position where we'll have to jack it up significantly the following year?"

Hinerman responded food costs are increasing at an estimated rate of 10 percent.

In the end, the board decided now was not a good time to increase meal prices and voted to keep it the same.

Student fees

Students fees were approved as presented with the superintendent being given permission to establish a personnel policy regarding charging activity fees to staff members' children.

Huxman said it was brought to his attention that a fringe benefit for staff members is receiving a pass for school activities but for those staff members with children in Hillsboro Middle School or Hillsboro High School, they are being charge a $20 per child activity fee. A portion of the fee admits students to sporting events.

He continued that a reduction of the activity fee charged to students of staff members would be acceptable.

The fees were approved as follows:

— Kindergarten milk and cracker fee, $20 per year.

— Recorder fee: $6 (an increase of $1 from last year) per year.

— HMS activity fee $20 per year.

— HMS T-shirt (optional), $8 per shirt.

— HMS notebook, $2 per item.

— HHS activity fee, $20 per year.

— HHS PE shirt (optional), $6.40 per shirt.

— HHS PE shorts (optional), $10.95 each.

— HHS Family and Consumer Science foods fee, $15 per class.

— HHS Family and Consumer Science nutrition and fitness fee, $10 per class.

— HHS tech-based living fee, $15 per class.

— HHS production technology fee, $15 per class.

— Driver's education fee, $75 per class; for students who qualify for reduced price meals, $37.50 per class; for students who qualify for free meals, $15 per class.

— HHS yearbook (optional), $40 per yearbook (an increase of $5 from last year).

— HHS art, $15 per class.

— Band (HHS and HMS), $15 per year.

Textbook fees

The board of education spent a long amount of time, nearly 30 minutes, discussing options related to charging students for textbook fees.

Current textbook fees for kindergarten are $25 full price, $20 for those who qualify for reduced meal prices, and $10 for those who qualify for free meals. Fees for grades 1-12 are $35 full, $25 reduced, and $10 free.

Huxman said there are many districts that have "done away with" the fees and consider the costs a part of the budget. He said at some point, this board needed to do the same.

In the previous years, $17,300 has been collected in textbook fees.

Koons said he could see the merit in not charging.

"We're in the education business and books are the cost of doing business," he said.

Board member Eddie Weber said he knows it's only $17,000 but start adding $10,000 here and $10,000 there to the budget, it can add up. Later in the meeting, Weber said the fees would be eliminated eventually.

Koons said the question needed to be asked, "Why would we remove it?"

"It's hard for me to look at removing a fee or charge that we'll never get back," he said.

Board member Gary Andrews said it was difficult for him to eliminate revenue coming in when the district had to eliminate staff because there wasn't sufficient revenue.

Hinerman said textbook fees were implemented in the 1990s.

Koons said it may make more sense to make this decision at budget time for the 2009-10 school year than now.

Andrews then made a motion to eliminate textbook fees for the 2008-09 school year; Weber seconded it. The motion failed 3-2 with Koons, Deb Geis, and Dale Klassen voting against. Koons said with only five of the seven members present, a 4-1 majority was required for motions to pass.

Andrews then suggested reducing the fees by half. Huxman suggested knocking $10 off the fees and "free" being no fee.

Geis made motion to reduce textbook fees by $10 and those who qualify for free meals, do not have to pay for textbooks; Andrews seconded. The motion carried, 4-1, with Weber opposed.