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Wamego school meals to increase next year


Insurance rates also climb



June 10, 2014
Meal prices for Wamego students will increase by a dime beginning the next school year.

Laura Fails, USD 320 district food service director, told the board at the Monday meeting the increase was mandatory.

"It's been two years since we've done it," she said. "According to the USDA, we are supposed to be at a certain average ($2.65). That is designed so that federal funds for free and reduced meals are not subsidizing paid meals. It's a formula everyone across the country has to use."

Fails said that food prices, especially milk which rose $.04 a carton, also impact meal cost.

"Even without this mandated increase, I would be requesting a paid lunch increase based on the price of milk," she said.

She also requested an increase in breakfast, "which has not happened in years. We are quite a bit under surrounding districts."

The board approved the request 5-0, Rob Adams and Ken Hitch were not present. Under the new pricing, elementary lunch meals will be $2.60 and secondary lunch meals will be $2.70. Breakfast will be $1.50.

On a related food service issue, the board approved the purchase of a new dish machine for the middle school at a cost of approximately $25,000. The money is available in the food service fund.

In addition to meal prices going up, the board also learned that health insurance costs will also rise, however due to a law change, the district will not have to put 30-hour workers on the insurance this year.

"When I came in January, I said that everything might change," said Katie Wolfgang, human services. "In February, there was a big change in the health care law. There is now a delay for any group of a certain size if they have a non-calendar plan year on the requirement to provide health insurance for all employees with 30 hours. We qualify on both counts."

She explained that under the new law, the district doesn't have to add those employees until October 2015 instead of October 2014.

"It's kind of a relief," she said. "Although I know a lot of our people aren't too excited."

Wolfgang said the board needed to make a decision on whether to add those personnel this year, or wait until next year. "The insurance broker recommended we push back a little longer, because nobody knows what the law will do."

Superintendent Denise O'Dea said that a decision was needed at that meeting because the district received the health insurance renewal rates "and the numbers were not good."

The original numbers from Coventry, the current provider, showed a 30 percent increase, according to Wolfgang. "We said that wasn't even an option, we can't consider it, we don't want to see it. They came back with 22.6 percent, which is better, but still pretty steep."

The district also got a quote from Blue Cross/Blue Shield on the three tiered plan the district uses. "It was cheaper on the first tier but others were more expensive," Wolfgang said. "It's also not comparable. It will cost an extra $211,000 to keep the employees on a comparable policy and we're budgeting over $1 million for health insurance this year."

O'Dea told the board the current negotiated agreement allows the board to contribute $350 for insurance, but these new policies will have to go before the insurance committee and it could become a negotiated item.

The consensus of the board was to follow the insurance broker's advice and not offer insurance to the 30 hour employees this year.

In other business:

The board followed up on last month's facilities discussion. O'Dea told them that KASB (Kansas Association of School Boards) would do the recommended enrollment study.

"They suggested we wait until after the Sept. 20 count day," she said. "Rock Creek is doing one at the same time and we'll work together. It makes sense."

O'Dea also said she had met with Larry Hannan, facilities director, to compile a list of needed maintenance, noted they added to what was originally there for a cost of around $7 million if everything was done.

"We have not ranked them," she said. "We feel that's the board's job."

The board also followed up on Dave Karnowski's request to reapproach the Catholic Archdiocese about the disposition of the St. Bernard church building.

The board will discuss the issue further, but wants to be sure Karnowski is speaking on behalf of the community and not on behalf of the board.

They agreed to have Dr. Kent Stewart, who will generate the facilities report, look at the church building.

Finally, the board approved the City of Wamego's request to use the empty fields on the old church property to handle overflow from the summer ball programs. The city will assume liability and ensure the property is returned to the district in good condition.

The board approved the handbooks for students, staff and coaches for all schools.

The discussion did bring up the issue of students on restricted licenses driving from the high school to the sports complex for football and/or track practice.

Tim Winter, WHS principal, said he discussed it with a KASB attorney, who recommended a waiver form for students who do not ride the school provided transportation.

Mary Kaye Siebert, director of curriculum and instruction, walked the board through the process used in revising the English Language Arts Curriculum.

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