Decision to increase lunch cost at Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools put on hold

Increased school lunch decision put on hold

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - The Savannah-Chatham County School Board was set to vote on a big topic Wednesday night, but it didn’t happen.

The board is deciding whether or not to increase full-priced lunches to offset revenue shortfalls. It would make lunches go up to $3 for both elementary and high schools.

If passed, the increase would make the Savannah-Chatham County School District lunches one of the most expensive in Georgia.

The increase would have elementary school parents paying 75 cents more for full-price lunch. If your child pays for lunch every day, the increase would take $135 more out of your wallet each year.

According to school board members, raising the price of school lunch is not an idea that came out of nowhere.

“I just appreciate the meetings we’ve had prior to this meeting so that we can have a great understanding of why we need the increase, and you’ve explained the point that we haven’t increased the meals in a couple of years due to hurricanes and other things,” said Dr. Tonia Howard Hall, Savannah-Chatham County School Board.

Negative ramifications raised in Wednesday’s meeting did come from left field. It forced the School Board President Joe Buck to delay voting on the resolution.

“So, I have some concerns that this has not been fully vetted by legal, and that we are in violation of the federal law that we claim to be complying with," said SCCPSS board member, Julie Wade.

Wade pointed out that the federal statute requires there be some type of fairness between the cost of reduced lunch and full-price lunch. It’s called paid lunch equity, which essentially makes sure that schools aren’t overcharging students who pay full price for the same meal students who pay reduced lunch are getting.

“This is not information I had heard before, and it’s definitely alarming. I don’t know if this has to be passed this meeting," said Dr. David Bringman, Savannah-Chatham County School Board.

How does this proposed increase compare to other school districts in the state of Georgia? Bulloch, Cobb, Gwinnett, and Jackson counties are all near $2.25-2.60. While Bryan and Dekalb counties have a higher average, around $2.75-2.85.

“I don’t think it’s fair to put our inability to balance the school nutrition budget on the students who pay full price, and having our youngest kids paying the same as our oldest kids."

The district officials had no answers to those questions. School board members say this agenda item must be voted on soon to be in compliance by July 1.

"We had a chance to speak with Attorney Holiday, and we’ll make sure that we are doing our due diligence and bring back any changes by May 15.”

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