The Mashpee Public Schools lunch program, which has provided meals to food-insecure students in the district during the school closure, now faces a $100,000 deficit that could rise to well above $200,000 before the school year ends.
Mashpee Schools Business Manager Paul Funk reported to the school committee on May 13 that the district’s lunch program currently faces a deficit of $118,385, with that figure expected to rise before the end of the year.
Mr. Funk said the food services department has been providing meals to food-insecure students without any revenue coming in, which will remain the case until the end of the year.
Mr. Funk said he met with Mashpee schools Food Service Director Gus Stickley, who runs the school lunch program. Mr. Funk said Mr. Stickley faced some challenges, such as determining how many students needed the service, as well as determining what kinds of foods would work best in a new “to-go” school lunch program.
“It’s an undertaking,” Mr. Funk said, adding that the process has become more streamlined and effective as the school closure has progressed.
Superintendent Patricia M. DeBoer said the to-go lunch program is now running “like a well-oiled machine.”
Mr. Funk said the deficit in the school lunch program will continue to grow and will “need to be taken care of” before the end of the fiscal year. He said he would present a plan for how to cover the expenses of the school lunch program at a future school committee meeting.
Mr. Funk said there will be some state money provided as reimbursements for the program, although he doesn’t yet know how much money that will be. Under normal circumstances, the state provides monthly reimbursements to Mashpee’s school lunch program to help pay for students who receive free or reduced rate lunches.
Members of the school committee expressed their support for the program despite the deficit and signaled confidence that the deficit could be resolved before the end of the fiscal year.
Committee chairman Geoffrey Gorman said he is “awestruck” at how the Mashpee school leaders have come together to create the program and added that he is thankful to live in a district that has both the financial resources and the collective willpower to create such a program.
School committee member Don Myers estimated that the deficit may run upward of $250,000 before the end of the year. Mr. Funk disagreed.
“I don’t think it’s going to run that high,” Mr. Funk said. “I wouldn’t make that projection.”
But Mr. Funk conceded that such a deficit is a possibility.
Mr. Funk said that whatever the deficit at the end of the fiscal year, the district would cover the expenses from within the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.
School committee vice chairwoman Nicole Bartlett said costs may be less in the months to come. as the food services department has made adjustments to the program to lessen its cost.
Mr. Myers clarified that his projection of the deficit did not signal any disapproval of the program.
“I’m not disagreeing with the program,” Mr. Myers said. “I just want to make sure that we understand what the total costs are as we support the families in need during this time.”
“Since we know that we’re going to be returning money to the town,” Ms. Bartlett said, anticipating coming in under budget for the current fiscal year, “we want to make sure we cover [the program] before any money goes back.”
Mr. Funk concurred.
“I don’t think we’re going to have any trouble covering it,” Ms. Bartlett said, “it’s just going to come out of what we would be giving back.”
“And that’s a pretty healthy figure right now,” Mr. Funk said.