The baked ziti at the Bridgehampton School is about to be a little more expensive.
Students at the Bridgehampton School have been paying $1.75 for breakfast and $2.50 for lunch, but according to a discussion at the school board’s meeting on Monday, August 11 the discrepancy between the cost to the students and the cost to the district places the school in a position of having to subsidize thousands of dollars for the food program. To that end, the board agreed to raise the price of meals at the school to $2 for breakfast and $3 for lunch rather than deny the sole bidder’s offer for food service and face the beginning of a school year without a provider.
Whitson’s Culinary Group Food Service, the only provider to bid on the Bridgehampton School’s request for services, has proposed a year contract at a cost of $5.39 per meal. The cost is based on estimation by Whitson’s on the number of meals that will be sold, based on last year’s figures in Bridgehampton.
Board member Joe Berhalter said he did believe the board could move forward with Whitson’s until more details can be worked out.
“I would recommend we try to end up with something we can live with,” he said.
In last year’s audit of the school district, one of the issues touched on by the state was subsidizing its food programs. Board members noted on Monday that last year the small number of students in the district, coupled with the price of the meals led to the roughly $50,000 the district had to pay for the program.
Bridgehampton Business Administrator Phillip Kenter disagreed with Berhalter, noting in just the one-month he has been in Bridgehampton he has put a tremendous amount of time and analysis in trying to solve the food service provider issue. The administration has done its due diligence on the project and yet only one bidder was willing to come this far east, he said, despite the fact that the district reached out to other providers.
“If you decide as a board to put this project on hold, or redo the numbers, I am here to tell you we will not have a food service provider on day one,” cautioned Kenter.
The district has also instituted a closed campus, he added, which will likely translate into more students and teachers using the breakfast and lunch program, and therefore lowering the cost. Kenter did suggest raising the price of breakfast and lunch by $.50 if necessary.
“We’ve run out of time and you as a board have to make a decision,” he said.
Berhalter asked Kenter to break down the projected cost of the project.
Kenter explained Whitson’s has projected the district will take in a gross of approximately $65,579 with $142,450 in expenses, leaving a worst case scenario of $76,000 the district would have to cover – over $10,000 less than the district anticipated in its budget.
That figure, he added, can change with variables like an increase in the number of meals sold through the program or the cost per meal.
“We can increase the pricing and we can end up with a deficit that is within our budget,” said Berhalter. “Probably, we should start off that way.”
But board vice president Elizabeth Kotz said she felt Berhalter wanted to raise the price for breakfast and lunch beyond what families can afford.
Kenter chimed in that looking at basic economic models, if the price goes beyond a break even point that families can afford, demand will go down and the cost to the district will go up.
“How do you recommend we cover the deficit,” asked Berhalter.
Kenter said he felt the district can cover some of the increased cost, and the board needs to view the situation from a different perspective, calling the situation possibly “a loss monetarily, but a huge gain for what we are doing for the children of the community.” Kenter noted the district has a fairly substantial fund balance from last year, which tells him the money is there.
“It’s the cost of doing business, if this is your business, and it is,” he said.
Superintendent Dr. Dianne Youngblood suggested the board consider an increase of $.75, stating any more would be “detrimental.”
“I think we need to get something in place and manage the deficit,” said board president Jim Walker, favoring the increase.
Board member Nicki Hemby countered that she felt $.75 was too much.
“These are kid’s meals,” she said. “This is not the Golden Pear.”
Kotz suggested $2 for breakfast, $3 for lunch, noting a family can send each child to school with a $5 bill and know they will be fed for the day.
Both the resolution to accept Whitson’s bid and to raise the price of meals were adopted by the board.
In other school news, Superintendent Youngblood said later this month a teleconference will be held with the Long Island Works Coalition to discuss the school’s Career Academy and the sustainable environmental design and architectural program as well as the development of another program at the school.Â
Above: Bridgehampton School District Business Administrator Phillip Kenter discusses the food program with the board as board member Joe Berhalter listens.Â