Cafeteria deficit fills MV plate

BY TOM FONTANA
Correspondent

The Mt. View board was informed of a projected $75,000 loss for the cafeteria this school year at its meeting last Monday.

“Enrollment and participation in the cafeteria food program dropped this year,” business manager Joseph Patchcoski told the directors, “and labor costs increased.”

He also estimated that the shortfall for the food program next year could go over $100,000.

“There’s no way to make a dent in that deficit without raising food prices,” board president Thomas Stoddard predicted.

Patchcoski also announced that the district’s current food service provider, The Nutrition Group, was the only bidder for the contract for the next school year. Melissa Hatala, a dietitian for the company, told the board that some of the cost increases occur because of changing government standards for school lunches.

“For instance, where every grain product had to be 50 percent whole wheat,” Hatala explained, “future regulations are aiming at 100% whole grain. A decrease of sodium and an increase in fruit requirements are also being considered.”

“Well, those should surely decrease participation!” Stoddard commented.
Director Sondra Stein requested more variety in food offerings. “The menu seems to include either a breaded chicken product or cheeseburgers,” she stated. “Why can’t there be a choice of grilled chicken?”

Hatala replied that grilled chicken could be “put out” every day, but it has been found that the students don’t take the grilled chicken when available, preferring the breaded.

Discussing the proposed 2014-15 overall district budget, Patchcoski predicted $18 million in expenses, and an expected $16 million in revenue, leaving a budget shortfall. He suggested that the district’s fund balance of nearly $4 million could be used in part to offset the shortfall in revenue. (School districts are required by the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education to submit a balanced budget.)

However, several directors pointed out that much of the fund balance is already “reserved” for other expenses, and only about $1.4 million could be used to cover the projected 2014-15 deficit.

“We’re lucky to have a fund balance at all,” director Roy Twining stated, “so we really don’t want to have to use it.”

Stoddard also pointed out that a new teacher’s contract that is pending approval will impact the budget.

The district is also considering drainage improvements to the baseball fields, and was informed that district maintenance director Robert Taylor will be conducting tours of the facilities with three architectural firms in coming weeks to seek feasibility studies.

Director of Special Services Gail Wnorowski expressed a need for creating a special education clerical position to assist with scheduling meetings with students and parents, as well as processing state Medical Access information. Patchcoski told the board that the position could be funded through the state’s medical assistance program.