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MANDATED SAFETY EQUIPMENT IN KITCHENS TIED TO LOSSES

The need to purchase state-mandated safety equipment for Pioneer School District kitchens is one reason financial losses in the district's lunch program have increased, officials said this week.

Kate Pritchard, district food service director, updated School Board members Tuesday night on efforts to monitor the program this year.

Thursday, Superintendent Jeffrey Bowen said that the district bought three pieces of safety plating for kitchen equipment and that Pritchard and the district have been closely monitoring the program's finances this fall so that board members can determine if lunch prices need to be increased.

Sara Dayton of Lumsden & McCormick in Buffalo, the district's external auditor, recently presented the annual audit.

The firm reported that the district had earned "the best rating" her firm can give for an audit. But one area of concern was that losses for the fifth- to 12th-grade lunch program increased to $70,000 for the 2003-04 school year, from $46,000 the previous year.

School officials said auditors recommended possibly raising the base price of school lunches. The district has already raised the price for a la carte items.

Pioneer has also installed a new computerized system to track lunch program expenses.

A review of meal prices was suggested by school officials because they haven't changed since August 2000, despite increases in other areas, such as health insurance, retirement system contributions, supplies, equipment and transportation, Bowen said.

In other business, Bowen announced that contract talks are expected to begin soon with the Pioneer Faculty Association. The contract, which covers an estimated 230 members, is set to expire in June.

The association includes district teachers and some professional support staff.

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