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Olean School District’s cafeteria fund at risk of falling into the red

OLEAN – The school district’s cafeteria fund balance appears to be falling into the red, with no hope of recovery.

“Our cafeteria fund balance looks to be in not as good shape as last year,” School Board President Michael Martello said. “By the end of the year, we are looking at between $5,000 to $10,000 of losses.”

The reason for the decrease, according to Martello, is that fewer students are buying lunch at the cafeteria. The problem seems to be a trend across the nation, as guidelines for federal school lunches have changed under the Obama administration to be more nutritious and have fewer calories.

Board member James Padlo said he has been reading news reports and opinion articles showing that this is a spiral that does not look to be ending. “If you put rabbit food and bird food in front of students who are looking for a substantial meal, they are not going to pick it up,” he said. “Take a look at our vending machines out there [in the halls]; they are full of fruit and bottles of water.”

Those things do not sell in the schools, he said, continuing to tell the board that, as the standards continue to change in the direction they are heading, fewer students will be purchasing the meals the district provides. Because of the trend in profit and loss, the budget for the coming school year has a built-in loss of between $3,000 and $5,000.

Pricing for the school meals program, including breakfast and lunches, received a recommendation for a 10-cent increase, according to the Finance Committee, whose chairman is Martello. The 10-cent increase is the maximum that can be recommended, according to district Business Officer Kathy Elser.

In other news, the board members unanimously voted to:

• Approve the full list of coaches and advisers for the 2013-14 school year.

• Reinstate Lyn Dempsey as an elementary school teacher. Dempsey had been laid off in recent staff reductions and will be reinstated on Step 6, with a master’s degree and 33 graduate hours, at a salary of $48,513.

• Hire Jacob Palo on a conditional three-year probationary appointment in technology education, effective Aug. 29. His salary will be $37,000.