SARANAC LAKE - School lunches will cost $2.25 in the Saranac Lake Central School District this year, up from $2 last year and the year before. This makes lunch in Saranac Lake more expensive than at any other school in the area. Plattsburgh High School, at $2.15, is the closest.
Breakfasts will cost $1.25.
Most years, the district spends $50,000 from its general fund on school lunches, district Business Executive Mike Kilroy said at Wednesday evening's school board meeting, with the rest covered by state and federal aid and money raised by lunch sales. However, the district spent about $90,000 last school year, he said.
Saranac Lake Central School District Superintendent Gerald Goldman (right) greets students at Petrova Elementary as they get off the buses for their first day of school Wednesday.
(Enterprise photo — Nathan Brown)
Part of the increase was due to the school's switching to a healthier menu in January, and "healthy food costs more money," said board President Debra Lennon.
Cafeteria use also went up after the change, however, and more teachers are also eating in the cafeteria now, said board member Clyde Baker. Teachers pay $3.50 plus tax for their lunches.
The board voted at its last meeting to raise the price by a quarter. Board members discussed the issue again at Wednesday's meeting, but decided to leave the price at $2.25 and see how it works out.
"If they're boycotting us, we'll know," Kilroy said.
The price increase will raise an extra $28,000 over the course of this school year, Goldman said. Goldman said the district isn't trying to make money off the program.
"We ought to look at feeding kids as an educational mission," Goldman said.
Goldman said the price increase could motivate more people who currently qualify for free or reduced-price breakfasts and lunches to apply for the program, which will save the district money because the state and federal government reimburses more of the cost of feeding these students.
For example, Kilroy said the district got $1.56 per breakfast from the state and federal governments last year at the high school and Bloomingdale Elementary, and $1.84 at Petrova, Lake Colby or Lake Clear schools, which were classified as "severe need" due to the higher number of students getting free or reduced-price meals. If a student buys breakfast for $1.25, the district is only reimbursed 26 cents, for a total of $1.51.
"There is such a thing as a free lunch," Kilroy said.
Currently, between 27 and 30 percent of the district's students get free or reduced-price lunches Kilroy said, but he said the number should be closer to 40 percent based on income.
"Our main goal is not to get kids on free and reduced just because we make money," Kilroy said. "We know the parents can save money, it helps us grantwise, and we want the kids fed."
The district recently mailed out the 2009-2010 property tax bills. Kiloy said some people have asked him why their tax bills have increased even though the tax levy remained flat in the 2009-2010 budget. He said this is because of changes to assessments or equalization rates, which are made by the towns or the state and not the school district. Also, Kilroy said, the state has cut the amount of much money it gives taxpayers as part of the School Tax Relief (STAR) exemption.