The Jamestown Public School Board voted unanimously Nov. 4 to limit negative balances in student lunch accounts in the district.
The new procedure effective Jan 6. will decrease outstanding balances from student lunches and help the district put its funds and energy in other areas.
"Instead of a money problem- a money issue- we want to focus on what's important: student health, student nutrition and helping to educate that student," says the district's Food Service Director and Dietician Shelley Mack.
"In the past, we've had an unlimited meal charging process and that really created problems for the district," says Jamestown Public Schools Superintendent Robert Lech.
Talk about the new procedure started when outstanding balances from student lunches reached $9,942.49 in June 2013. The current balance is $4,840.27. This was previously paid by the district's general fund.
"What we did last night was to set a limit of $15 for a negative balance in a lunch account," says Lech.
Of the 2,100 students in the district, 96 of them (roughly 4.5 percent of total students) are over the $15 limit with amounts ranging from $15.15 to $445.50. Over half of students with balances over the limit are less than $30. Only 29 students (roughly 1.5 percent) are over $50 and only nine students are over $100.
Lech says that the program will start Jan. 6 in order to allow time to communicate with families and plan on how to bring outstanding balances under the $15 limit.
The limit provides sufficient funds to feed a student for one school week while the family is notified and able to choose a payment option.
"They pay in full, they set up a payment plan, they bring their own lunch, they pay in cash," says Lech.
But the school is adamant that they will not spare expense at the cost of student health and well-being.
"If a student hasn't taken advantage of one of those options and they haven't brought their own lunch, then we'd provide an alternate meal for them," says Lech.
Parents are also able to access their student's account online. The district hopes that the new plan and many options available helps dramatically reduce the outstanding balance.
"That would be the goal is that we have no negative balance- at least limit the balance that we have," he says.