All students will continue to receive free breakfast and lunch through the 2021-’22 school year, thanks to an extension of free meal provisions in COVID-19 relief legislation.
Kathy Hamby, supervisor of school nutrition, told the Cumberland County Budget Committee federal funds would make up for local revenue.
“There’s been food shortages and increased costs,” Hamby said of the past year. “USDA offered waivers we could take advantage of to operate our summer program year-round. We already had community partners in place and were able to offer weekend meals, and we could serve meals outside of meal times.”
That increased the department’s federal reimbursements for the year, from $4.9 million in 2019-’20 to a projected $5.7 million for 2020-’21. Hamby has budgeted $5.5 million for the ’21-’22 budget.
“We ended up in a good position for the school year. There are some counties that are having to go to their board and ask for funds because they fell short this year,” Hamby said. “With us taking advantage of all the waivers, we’re going to end up in a good spot.”
Those waivers have all been extended through June 30, 2022, and Hamby said the department will make use of those in the coming school year.
The $6.1 million budget includes $5.8 million in revenue and about $244,000 from the department’s fund balance for one-time purchases.
Hamby said the past year had brought numerous changes to meal service in the school system, from the use of disposable paper products and the difference in offering students meal items to serving them in their classrooms.
The department also found its personnel costs increased for full-time staff but its part-time staff was reduced.
“We’re not washing real dishes and we anticipated a downturn in participation,” Hamby said. “We did not lay off any employees. We just chose not to fill positions.”
The school nutrition department typically staffs about 110 employees. This year, that number dropped to around 80 people.
She has budgeted for 100 employees next year in the event the department can return to more traditional meal service.
She has been advised to anticipate a 5% increase in federal revenue with a corresponding increase in commodity food costs. There are also times when she has to work with suppliers to identify substitutions for specific items, which can also increase costs.
The department operates on a reimbursement basis, purchasing supplies and submitting reimbursement on the number of meals served. The fund balance helps the department continue operating until reimbursement is received. The department has about three months of operating expenses, which is within the recommended amount of reserves, Hamby said.
“We’re actually looking at ending the year better than we ever ended before,” Hamby said.
The school nutrition budget operates on local food charges and federal reimbursement. It does not include local tax funding. Hamby said there will be no increase in adult meal prices next year.
The budget committee approved the school nutrition budget.
Also approved were federal program budgets:
•Career and Technical Education, $173,294
•Special Education, IDEA Preschools and Part B, $1.6 million
•Federal Programs, $2.6 million
Federal programs include targeted programs for improving academic achievement for disadvantaged students, Title I, which includes all elementary schools and the Phoenix School. Funding helps provide extra teachers and teaching assistants, instructional facilitators, professional development, parental involvement programs and homeless student support. Title IA serves neglected and delinquent children.
Other federal programs are:
•Title II — preparing, training and recruiting high-quality teachers and principals, funding for 3.5 instructional coaches, mentor teacher program and staff development
•Title III — instructional equipment, supplies and professional development for English as a Second Language instructors to serve students with limited English proficiency
•Title V — Rural and low-income school program, providing funding for supplemental equipment for ESL classrooms, teaching assistants and in-county travel costs
•Title IX — McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance, providing funding for the homeless liaison, enrichment field trips and transportation for homeless students
•21st Century Community Learning Centers — extended learning offered at nine elementary schools, with teaching stipends and transportation funding