FARMINGTON — The Regional School Unit 9 board of directors approved a 20-cent increase in school lunches for the coming school year Tuesday night.

The decision followed a lengthy discussion about the $47,200 in unpaid lunches.

The increase will set the lunch price at $2.30 for elementary students, and $2.55 for middle/high school students. Reduced-price lunches will remain at 40 cents and there will be no change for breakfasts.

The district’s food service director, Andy Hutchins, had proposed a 15-cent increase, while the state recommended a 29-cent hike.

According to Hutchins, the district is owed $47,200 for meals. Elementary and middle school students are never turned away without a meal, regardless of what they may owe, and so they make up the majority of the debt.

The debt from high schools students is significantly lower, Hutchins said, because each student is capped at a $25 balance.


“What is most concerning to me is the first- and second-graders who already have an unpaid balance of $100 or $200,” Hutchins said. “What is that going to look like in a few years?”

Approximately 46 percent of the district’s students get free or reduced-price lunches, but Hutchins said there is likely a higher number of students who qualify and may not be turning in the paperwork.

In an effort to minimize the growing debt, board member Irv Faunce of Wilton suggested an increase of 25 cents per meal.

Board member Debbie Smith of Weld said she knew several families who pay their balances on time, but can barely afford the current costs. She proposed the 20-cent increase.

Hutchins said students usually pay their outstanding balance by the time they graduate, and the district’s “bad debt” or debt that can no longer be collected from students because they have graduated or left the district, is $1,600.

In other business, Superintendent Tom Ward participated in his last RSU 9 board meeting Tuesday. Ward, who retires this year, is being replaced by Tina Meserve, and was presented with a tree that will be planted in his honor on the Mt. Blue campus.

Also leaving the board are Chairwoman Jennifer Zweig-Hebert of Starks and Richard Hargreaves of New Vineyard. A reception for them was held before the meeting.

RSU 9 Superintendent Tom Ward stands beside a tree Tuesday that will be planted in his honor on the Mt. Blue campus in Farmington. He is retiring as superintendent. (Liz Marquis/Sun Journal)

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