Elementary students who attend Webster Parish schools will receive free breakfast and lunch for 2017-2018.

Thanks to a federal program, all schools will offer the free meals to students in Pre-K through sixth grade regardless of household income.

In a special meeting Monday, the Webster Parish School Board voted unanimously to allow these children to eat free through the Community Eligibility Provision. It didn’t go without discussion after the vote, though.

Finance Director Crevonne Odom said she did the math, and it could have changed the board’s mind about selecting the choice given.

“We are prepared to present that, but you have already voted, and it may change your opinion,” she said. “After being charged with going back to look at some things, and I called around to other systems, the one thing we can agree on is that nobody knows for sure, and it’s trial and error.”

Under the CEP, all students in grades 7 through 12 would continue to pay full price, with the exception of those already on free or reduced lunch or those who qualify in the 2017-18 school year.

The total reimbursement from the federal program would be about $2.9 million, Odom said. Along with
the $2.9 million in federal money, the school food service would get its funding from the Minimum Foundation Program, the 69 sales tax, the general fund, the 96 sales tax and additional adult lunches, equaling $4.5 million, which is their cost now.

“If we went system wide, this is where the money would come from to cover school food service,” she said, adding it could possibly cost the school board about $200,000.

Lunch prices are $1.75 for grades pre-K through sixth grade, $2 for grades 7 through 12, and breakfast costs $1. For students who eat on reduced prices, those students pay 40 cents per meal in all grades. Breakfast for all grades on reduced prices costs 30 cents.

In other school news, employees, for the month of May, will receive their 96 sales tax check distributions on May 19. Each employee will receive a gross of $599.46, minus withholdings. Last year’s check was $1,056. The district lost over $500,000 in sales taxes last year, Odom said.

Some discussion over whether an item such as the 96 sales tax check should be in the announcements took place when District 9 Board Member Frankie Mitchell asked how and why such items are announced instead of asking for board approval.

“For it to be in the minutes, it shouldn’t be in the announcements,” she said. “That makes a difference in an announcement and having it in the minutes.”

Odom said the legislative auditors are now telling the school board they must record everything in the minutes, even if it does not call for board approval.

Mitchell also said there has been an issue with making sure the secretary has all the paperwork she needs.

“Sometimes we pass out things that the secretary doesn’t have a copy of,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s not fair to her to have to call board members to get some copy of something that gets passed out. If we need a copy, then our secretary should have a copy too. We’ve got to clean up the kitchen right now.”