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Milk drains DL coffers, school board hikes lunch fees

School lunch prices are on the rise with a 10-cent increase across the board in store this fall as the Detroit Lakes School Board approved the change in its meeting on Monday morning.

Elementary school prices will go up to $1.45 with secondary school lunches going up to $1.70. Adult lunches rise to $2.90. The reduced lunch price of 40 cents stays the same, along with the breakfast price of $1.30. An extra milk will be 30 cents instead of a quarter.

One reason for the change is that the district was on the hook for an additional $30,000 just for milk alone. Recent spikes in food and fuel prices will impact the budget in the upcoming school year.

School board member LuAnn Porter questioned whether or not the increase will keep some kids from getting a lunch.

"Will that dime make a difference?" Porter said.

She was concerned that the increase will hurt the families that are at the threshold of qualifying for a reduced lunch the most.

Board member Thomas Seaworth said the district needs to lobby the state legislature to help families who are in need.

"You have a responsibility when you decide to have children," Seaworth said. "And to me, the area to get these families help is to review with our state legislators and say 'You know what, it's probably past time for us to raise these limits on these free and reduced lunches so that we're not nickel and diming ourselves.'"

The income threshold for a reduced lunch for the 2008-09 school year is $39,220 for a family of four.

In regards to new construction, a new wrestling practice facility is in the cards for Detroit Lakes High School.

Before any dirt is shoveled, a bidding process will occur. But action that the board took moves the plan along, as the district and the Wrestling Boosters will each pay $7,470 to draw up architectural plans. The state Department of Education needs to sign off on the plan as well.

Along with that, the boosters and the district will share construction costs, with the district's share limited to either half the construction costs or $125,000, whichever is less.

"We looked over the course of time at doing a building that would be attached to our facility," said district business manager Ted Heisserer. "Of course that would be fairly cost prohibitive."

Instead, the plan is to build a stand-alone facility along Madison Avenue just east of the main high school building.

The practice facility is envisioned to be a temporary solution, with the structure becoming a garage and/or storage area in the future.

Wrestlers will not be practicing in luxury. Essentially it is a pole barn with a concrete slab to allow for wrestling mats to be rolled out. A small office area and bathrooms would be at one end of the 42-foot by 140-foot structure.

"It would basically be a no-frills practice facility," Heisserer said.

The board commended the boosters for coming together to put the project together and ensure their share of funding is in place.

"We have a group of citizens that have taken this much time and put in this much effort to help us with one of the real areas of need," Seaworth said.

Besides the high school using the facility, it is envisioned that elementary and middle school wrestling programs would take advantage of the space as well.

Other action taken by the board include:

Moving on the preliminary budget for the 2008-09 school year.

Continuing current health and property insurance plans.

Changing the worker's compensation to SFM from MSBA at a saving of $30,000 per year.

Approving school bus contracts with Schultz and Olander Bus Companies for the next two years. Olander will replace three buses and Schultz plans to replace two buses.

Putting on hold a plan to build bus lanes at the middle school and Roosevelt School at a cost of approximately $360,000. Instead, the board decided to look into alternatives such as adding additional pavement to help busses turn in the current location.

The budget plans on spending approximately $71 million for the upcoming school year. Factored into the budget included a one-time funding increase of $51 per pupil that was passed by the state legislature this past session.

With the additional funding in place and cost containment measures approved in past meetings, the general fund reserve deficit has been cut down to $106,000 from nearly $200,000.