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HILLSVILLE — Carroll County educators expect meal prices to go up during the next five years, as a result of mandates from the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
At a school board meeting Feb. 8, Superintendent Greg Smith referred to requirements that meals be priced the same as the federal government reimburses for free and reduced lunches.
Schools finance manager Tammy Quesenberry noted that officials will need to start having conservations about this in the next few months.
"The language actually reads, 'Beginning July 1, 2011, schools are required to charge students for paid meals at the same prices as the reimbursements,'" she noted. "Schools that currently charge less are required to gradually increase these prices over time until they meet that requirement.
"We are a long way away on our meal prices from the federal reimbursement.”
Carroll schools charge students 85 cents or 90 cents, depending on grade level. Quesenberry said the federal reimbursement rate for breakfast is $1.76.
"We got to be there within five years," she said.
For lunch, it’s $1.50 or $1.60 per meal per student, and the reimbursement rate is $2.72.
Quesenberry wants to discuss with school board members how to increase prices to meet the federal price by 2016.
That's a $1.22 to make up in five years, she said.
Smith suggested a gradual process of steps towards that goal, but the necessary increases didn't sound too gradual to school board members.
"There's not much gradual. No, it's not," Quesenberry said. "And it's going to hit home and it's going to hit the pocketbooks.
"I do want you to be aware that’s going to be coming up in the next couple months."
"One reimbursement rate for the whole country?" asked School board member Phillip Berrier.
That is set by the federal government, Quesenberry said.
"It doesn't vary from New York City to Carroll County?" Berrier said.
No, she said.
That's not fair, Berrier said.
Carroll schools now get more money from the federal government for a child that gets meal reimbursement than a student who buys lunch, Quesenberry said. That will change, with the two categories becoming the same.
School board members thought the meals price should be figured on the ability to pay in a locality.