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Meal prices to stay same for Brainerd schools

Meal prices at Brainerd schools will stay the same, despite a tight budget and fewer students buying school lunch.

The Brainerd School Board voted unanimously at its regular meeting Monday to go along with the recommendation of the Finance Committee to keep meal prices the same for another year.

The projected deficit in the food service budget for last school year is $110,000.

With meal prices frozen for another year, staff will focus balancing the budget with expense control measures. One of those measures is cutting 3.75 FTE positions across the district’s 12 kitchens.

Participation levels have dropped from 73 percent to 68 percent, said Steve Lund, director of Business Services for the district, at a Finance Committee earlier this month.

Increasing meal prices isn’t the best decision for the district right now, Lund said. It could create more challenges than solutions with an already declining participation rate.

Reasons for the declining participation in the meal program has a lot to do with federal nutrition guidelines, Lund said.

“It’s the single most important reason for why participation is down,” he said.

Meal prices are as follows:

Elementary breakfast: $1.60; Elementary lunch: $2.50; Secondary breakfast: $1.60; Secondary lunch: $2.60; Adult breakfast: $2.60; Adult lunch: $3.90.

Officials will look at the meal program next year and assess the next steps.

Director Ruth Nelson was absent from Monday’s meeting.

In other school board news:

Kathleen Mortensen will replace outgoing Willie Severson as director of schools for the district. Severson retired June 12 after 39 years with the district. Mortensen began in the post July 1.

The August school board meeting will be held on the third Monday of the month, instead of the usual second Monday. The meeting will be at 7 p.m., on Aug. 19.

The board held its regular meeting at Nisswa Elementary School for the first time on Monday. The move is part of an effort to reach the board’s appearance throughout the district.

Approved a variable pricing contract through Kemps for milk services. The cost to the district for one container of milk was 18.6 cents last year. Next year, that could jump to 19.6-21.8 cents, Lund said. The district serves up 1.3 million half-pint cartons a year.

Approved the renewal of risk insurance with about a $50,000 increase in renewal rates. The new rate is $828,473, up from last year’s $779,796. The biggest culprit is in the worker’s compensation premium, which goes from $497,743 to $537,893.

Approved the renewal of a service agreement with Northern Pines Mental Health Service at a 1.5 percent increase for the next school year. The cost will jump from $159,000 to about $162,000 for services. It’s the first increase in four years.

“We’re confident in the service we are receiving from them,” Lund said.

Director Bob Nystrom abstained from the vote.

Approved an audit services contract for the fiscal year 2013 at the price of $37,250 with CliftonLarsonAllen. It’s a 2 percent rate increase, and is the first increase in six years.

Approved to continue the district’s three employee recognition programs. At about an annual cost of $1,000, the programs are: the service award, above and beyond recognition, and giving a Brainerd blanket to retiring employees.

Forestview Middle School teachers Cory Olson and Jim Reed presented what the district did with the $110,000 technology grant the High Altitude Balloon Club won through the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest. The district bought: 140 Samsung Chromebooks, 108 Samsung Galaxy Note 2s, four laptops, seven monitors, 15 iPad minis, 2 MacBook Airs, one 65 inch TV, and one 65 inch programmable display.

The teachers also told the board about a new summer STEM camp held last week, with 27 kids attending. The goal was to promote engineering skills to children.

There are 23 projects this summer for the district, some big and some small. The Forestview warehouse completion date is Aug. 2, said Earl Wolleat, director of building and grounds for the district. Wolleat gave the board an update on some of the construction projects going on.

The Lowell air quality project is also running on time, he said.

The Riverside parking lot will be completed by July 18, then Washington parking lot will be started and done in six days, he said.

The district was awarded a $237,478 grant for State Aid for Alternative Delivery of Specialized Services, which is less than the projected $350,073.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at