Mountain View Voice

News - February 10, 2012

Price jumps for school lunches, bus passes

MV Whisman cites steeper operational costs, state cuts for increase

by Nick Veronin

The price of lunch and home-to-school transportation will be raised at Mountain View's elementary and middle schools next year.

In an effort to make up for lost state transportation revenue and to keep up with increasing operational costs related to its nutrition program, the Mountain View Whisman School District's board of trustees recently voted to raise the price of bus passes by as much as 36 percent and to charge an extra 7 percent for lunches beginning in the 2012-13 term.

The cost of breakfast will not go up, and the new pricing plans — both for lunch and transportation — will not affect students who qualify for free lunch under the National School Lunch Program, according to Craig Goldman, the district's superintendent. Those who qualify for reduced lunch rates will continue to be eligible for discounts both at lunch time and for bus rides.

The cost of a full-price lunch, currently $3.25, will be raised to $3.50 — a 7 percent increase. With more than 2,000 students paying the full price, the incremental increase should bring an additional $51,280 to the district, according to Terese McNamee, chief business officer for Mountain View Whisman.

The bump in bus fares will only bring the district an extra $2,460, McNamee said, even though the prices are being raised by a much larger percentage than the hot lunch program — with one-way tickets jumping from $1.50 to $2 (25 percent), half-year passes going from $225 to $350 (36 percent) and a full year's worth of rides rising from $400 to $600 (33 percent).

That's because the majority of Mountain View Whisman students who rely on the transportation program either do not pay or qualify for reduced fares, McNamee explained. "The lion's share of our bus riders are on the free and reduced lunch program."

Multiple factors lay behind the increases in cost, Goldman said. The district has not raised prices on school lunches since 2008, he noted, and during that time, the costs associated with providing food to students have gone up.

"This is our way of offsetting some of those increases in operational cost that have already occurred and will continue to occur," Goldman said. He said the decision to raise the price of lunch had nothing to do with the new USDA regulations aimed at ensuring kids eat healthier, fresher foods.

As far as the price of bus tickets is concerned, Goldman explained that the district is scheduled to lose about $250,000 in state funds this year and more than $500,000 next year — following Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to eliminate funding for home-to-school transportation.

"Going forward, we're going to have to look at how we provide for the cost of transportation when the governor has given a clear indication that it is no longer interested in funding that program," Goldman said.

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