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My previous post about school lunches had some interesting responses! Thanks to all who chose to join the discussion. I'd like in particular to pass along this conversation, since I think there are some pretty interesting points made by both me and by engaged reader Judy McCoid. Thank you, Judy!
JUDY MCCOID: The debt is not from kids /families who cannot afford it. They are on free lunch. Some of the debt is from kids on reduced lunch. Most of it is from families who do not qualify for assistance; therefore can afford to pay for the lunch?
CATHY BAYLOR: Yes, Judy - and yet what our schools are dealing with is teaching children who aren't ready to learn because they are hungry. The school district works very hard to collect lunchroom debt. Parents receive emails daily if they are in arrears even $5.00. This is as it should be.
But in the meantime, kids need to be ready to learn. If you look at the bigger picture -- nearly 19,000 students in the district, and 6,000 lunches served each day -- an overall debt load of $5,000 isn't that great, especially considering the return.
JUDY MCCOID: Can the district afford to pay for lunch for all? If so, great. Forgiving debt may increase the debt amount.
CATHY BAYLOR: Judy, for the 2016-2017 school year total district expenditures were $260,647,353. This exceeded revenues by $14,913,790, but there is a reserve fund that covered this. There is still over $7 million in the reserve fund.
There are at least two things that you can conclude from this:
1. $4,000 in school lunch debt is VERY SMALL in comparison to the overall budget. It is a minuscule percentage. To be precise, it is .00001535%. It is 00057143% of the reserve account that now sits at $7 million. So yes, they could afford to pay this.
2. As good stewards, however, who are guarding the schools money and being frugal with taxpayer money, the school board instead chose to ask the community to help out with this with donations: which they gladly did. In fact, while the lunch debt was $4,000, the community chipped in $6,000, leaving $2000 to defray some of this year's costs.
And in response to your point about this new policy resulting in increased debt: I want to reiterate that the food services department is being quite aggressive in collecting lunch debt. I have personally seen a personalized message to a parent who owed, $4.54 just two days ago.
This is a pilot program. The school board is monitoring the progress very closely. They can change the policy at any time, if need be. I think we should give it a chance, considering, as I said before, "we are talking here about our very precious children."
JUDY MCCOID: Thank you for the detailed information.
CATHY BAYLOR: Thank you, Judy!