JPS feeling the pinchResidents and businesses aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch of gas prices and transportation costs. The Jamestown Public School District is tightening its belt as well. Jamestown Public Schools hasn’t had to reach into its contingency fund to pay the difference yet, said Bob Toso, superintendent, but it is developing ways to cut corners.
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
Residents and businesses aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch of gas prices and transportation costs. The Jamestown Public School District is tightening its belt as well.
Jamestown Public Schools hasn’t had to reach into its contingency fund to pay the difference yet, said Bob Toso, superintendent, but it is developing ways to cut corners.
Lunch prices are going up 10 cents, he said, from $1.80 to $1.90 for elementary lunches, $1.90 to $2 at the middle school and $2 to $2.10 at the high school. Milk is also increasing 5 cents, from 25 cents to 30 cents. But that isn’t because of increasing food and fuel costs, which are expected to increase by as much as 5.5 percent this year according to Associated Press reports.
The district raises its prices every few years to keep up with inflation, Toso said, and 10 cents is no more than increases made in other years. Right now, Shelley Mack, food services director and dietitian for the district, is negotiating prices with food companies that are guaranteed until October.
If food and transportation costs increase to the point that the food service program would wind up over budget, the district would likely subsidize the program by paying for the expenses using dollars from its contingency fund, Toso said.
“So far we haven’t felt like there’s been a real pinch,” he said.
Shelley Mack, food services director and dietitian for the district, “runs a tight ship,” Toso said.
Mack said prices started to increase by the end of the year and already food companies are warning her of the price increases for the upcoming school year.
“It worries me a little when they call me ahead of time and tell me that prices have gone (up),” she said.
Mack said she has been monitoring portion control, overtime and waste to keep the district’s $1 million budget for food services in the black, which she and the food services department did for the 2007-2008 school year. The district has also been applying for grants to supplement the income it receives from breakfast and lunch prices. The district was awarded a $10,000 grant from Hidden Valley in May and $3,000 of that goes directly to purchasing produce for lunches at Roosevelt Elementary, Mack said.
In fact, when fuel prices spike, the district has to pay surcharges to its vendors, Mack said. This year, the charges amounted to $3,000. Typically, the district doesn’t pay any surcharges, she said.
Currently, the federal government pays $2.47 for free lunches which are served to students whose parents meet the income guidelines, Mack said. The government also pays 23 cents for each student who pays full price lunch. Thirty-two percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunches, Mack said.
Even with the government stipend, school lunches typically cost $3 or more according to Associated Press reports.
The district serves about 2,360 breakfasts and lunches each day for the 170 or so days the students are in school.
“It’s going to be a tough year and I hope it eventually stabilizes,” she said, saying parents can help by paying their bills for school lunches on time.
In addition to the effects of fuel prices on food cost, fuel prices affect the district’s busing system.
Currently, the district charges about $75 per student per semester and hasn’t yet considered raising its rates, Toso said. The district contracts student transportation with Dietrich Bus Service and agrees on a certain price at each contract signing.
Part of the contract includes a 1-cent-per-mile fee for each 5-cent-per-gallon spike in fuel cost, said Sally Ost, business manager. For each 5 cent decrease in gas prices, the district is compensated 1 cent per mile. In May, the district paid $4,000 to compensate for the higher cost of fuel.
Currently, the district budgeted $500,000 for student transportation to and from school and $168,000 for athletic and extra-curricular transportation, which equals what the district budgeted for the 2007-2008 school year.
The district spent 96 percent of its budgeted transportation costs in the 2007-2008 school year.
“Unless something extreme happens, we feel like we’re adequately prepared,” Ost said.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org