December 13 2017

Increase in Deficit in School Cafeteria Fund Largely Blamed on Switch to Healthy, Fresh Food

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington Superintendent of Schools Eric Conti addressed an increase in the FY17 deficit in the cafeteria revolving account in a blog post this week.


“After a significant deficit accumulated in the cafeteria revolving account many years ago, school committee and Town officials agreed that this revolving account would be zeroed out at the conclusion of the fiscal year, if in deficit,” he explained. “A negative balance in a revolving account typically indicates a budgeting problem or, in the case of the cafeteria, may indicate the need to increase the price of lunches.”


Conti said the account normally runs a deficit but that the amount of the shortfall rose significantly this year.


“The deficit in the cafeteria account this year spiked from prior years to about $100,000,” he said, later stating a normal deficit was around $25,000 to $30,000.


The reason? Mostly due to high-quality food, Conti said. He wrote that about 70 percent of the deficit was due to an increased priority placed on fresh produce and general food quality.


Conti added that funds have been identified to zero out this year’s deficit.


“The school committee will be voting to transfer money from the international student choice account to the cafeteria revolving account at the meeting on 12/19,” he wrote. “This transfer typically takes place in the early fall. The transition to new personnel in the business office and the ongoing review of the music revolving account delayed this transfer until now.”


He said that looking to next year the School Department and School Committee will discuss adding money to the operating budget to support the new, healthier food options. The other option, he said, which will also be discussed, will be to re-examine the price of school lunches.


“We cannot sustain the larger deficit created at the conclusion of FY2017,” he said. “The Federal School Lunch program is highly regulated. Our staff does a great job navigating the regulations while attempting to increase student participation.  For context of the typical and atypical deficit amounts, we typically spend about $1,000,000 per year on the school lunch program which is paid for by students purchasing their breakfasts and lunches.”



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