JAY — Regional School Unit 73 directors learned Thursday night that the food service budget will increase $60,624, or 16.49%, in 2020-21 because revenues have been overestimated for several years.

The total school district budget of $20.16 million is 3.03% more than this fiscal year, which ends June 30. Of that amount $844,665 is for food service.

Food Service Director Laura Lorette said lunch revenue is down $20,000, breakfast revenue is down $30,100, federal revenue is down $47,000; carryover is down $26,840; fruit and vegetable grant is down $10,000 and other revenues are down $12,400.

“Based on the current year and past two years, those numbers were overestimated,” she said. “We’ve fallen short of that. There are no breakfast revenues, we’re offering free breakfast now.”

Superintendent Scott Albert said Business Manager Krystal Flagg noticed the trend last spring.

“Our former food service director overestimated revenues,” he said. “Instead of adjusting those every year, she actually added an extra 5% each year thinking we would have more revenue. We’re now offering universal free breakfast for all students,” he said.

“To break even, about 70% of students would need to qualify for free or reduced-price meals. We only have 50%,” Albert said.

Prekindergarten students also get free breakfast.

“I think it’s important that we keep the universal breakfast in place,” Albert said. “I know we’re asking for more from each town. We need to make up for the fact we did not get those revenues.”

Director Tammy Frost said the board had asked for updates but didn’t get them.

“I think the board needs more updates,” she said.

Albert said Lorette walked into a tough situation. She has done a great job making sure paperwork is filled out so the district receives subsidies, he said.

“If paperwork isn’t done completely or the right way, we lose money every month from the state and federal government for subsidies,” Albert said. “Going forward we should see a difference.”

Lorette said, “Providing healthy meals for these students and starting their day with breakfast is very well received by the student population and staff. I applaud the board for making that decision. There are schools throughout the state that don’t.”

Another revenue shortfall is from unpaid meals.

Director Sara Hughes asked if some of that is from parents whose children should be getting free lunch.

Lorette said she can’t force parents to fill out the paperwork. She sends bills monthly, makes cold calls and offers to send applications home.

A new auto alert system will start next month to notify parents once a week when payments are overdue.

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