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School lunch prices could go up next year at some levels

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Parents of elementary and high school students will likely pay a little bit more for school lunches starting next fall.

The District 196 School Board took a first look Monday at a proposal that would increase elementary lunch prices from $2.10 to $2.20 and high school lunch prices from $2.25 to $2.35. Prices for adults would also increase by 10 cents, to $3.40. Middle school lunch prices would not change.

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This would be the second consecutive year lunch prices have increased in the district - prices went up by five cents at all levels for the current school year -- and in both instances the motivation comes from the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. District finance director Jeff Solomon told board members Monday that the act has provisions to ensure schools are providing the same level of financial support for meals served to all students.

Solomon said the federal regulations require that school lunch programs run a balanced budget, both overall and within several sub-categories. The District 196 program has a balanced budget overall, but Solomon said an a la carte program is subsidizing the regular hot lunch program.

The proposed increase did not sit well with board members.

"I think the federal government has forgotten what local control means," board member Rob Duchscher said.

Solomon told board members the district could refuse to raise prices, but that could lead to a loss of federal funding.

The school board will take action on the proposed price increase at it next regular meeting May 14.

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