After discussing discrepancies over whether the school system has made money since partnering with food service company Sodexo, Halifax County School Board members opted out of raising meal prices when they met Monday evening in Halifax.

A motion was made by ED-4 Trustee Joe Gasperini to accept a 10 cent increase that would hike lunch fees to $2.20, but it failed by a 4 to 4 vote with ED-1 Trustee Orey Hill, ED-5 Trustee Freddie Edmunds, ED-7 Trustee R. K. “Dick” Stoneman and ED-8 Trustee Walter Potts voting no.

Finance Director Jay Camp presented the reimbursement rates and price increase saying, “Currently federal reimbursements for free and reduced priced meals are subsidizing full-paid meals.”

For breakfast, he said free meals reimbursement was $1.99 per meal, reduced reimbursement was also $1.99 per meal, and paid reimbursement was $1.54 per meal.

“Halifax County Food Service Department is receiving 45 cents less for paid meals versus free and reduced priced meals,” said Camp.

For lunch, he said free meals reimbursement was $3.15 per meal, reduced reimbursement was $3.15 per meal, and paid reimbursement was $2.47 per meal.

Camp said, “Halifax County Food Service Department is receiving 68 cents less for paid meals versus free and reduced priced meals.”

After completing the paid equity report, the food service department is looking at $2.25 as the weighted average price requirement.

“Halifax County Food Service Department would like to propose a 10 cent increase for paid lunches for the 2016-17 school year bringing the paid lunch price to $2.20. At this time there have been zero non-federal contributions to the program. In order to remain financially sound, we need to make more of an effort to cover food costs and inflation rates on the knowledge that there are non-federal contributions in our future,” said the finance director.

Potts then asked if this increase came from Sodexo, and Camp said it did, and that it was needed for the school system to continue to make the same amount of money.

ED-6 Trustee Fay Satterfield then questioned if the school system had been making a profit since joining with Sodexo.

“We were told somewhere along the line that last year we made $100,000 by going with Sodexo, but when I saw a copy of the audit, we were in the red $22,000, so what’s the truth,” said Satterfield.

Camp said he did not have that information in front of him, but said when he and Superintendent Dr. Merle Herndon met with the auditor, he was “very impressed with the turnaround that seemed to have been made with Sodexo.

“As far as specific numbers, I’d have to look those up and get back,” said Camp.

Potts said, “I don’t see any justification for doing this.”

The ED-8 trustee said, “I’m not going to vote for it if we don’t have a true figure. That’s what Fay just brought out. If we made $100,000 or we are in the red $22,000. What justifies us having to add this 10-cent increase? We made money last year. Why do we have to do that this year? If we didn’t make money last year, we need to know that. That should have been on this proposal to justify it. I don’t hear any justification at all for doing this.”

Camp reiterated, “Halifax County Food Service Department is receiving 45 cents less for paid meals vs. free and reduced priced meals.

“What is the total loss figure for the year,” said Potts. “Saying they’re receiving 45 cents less, that isn’t telling the parents anything.”

Gasperini said the increase in meals was due to rising food costs and inflation, and “We weren’t in the red last year, and we won’t be this year.”

Potts responded, “if we made money after going with Sodexo, I want to know how much we made…They’re supposed to be making sure we have a profit margin. I don’t hear a profit margin… All I’m asking is how much money we made or how much we lost… We got with Sodexo to make money, not to subsidize Sodexo.”

Potts said it seemed like going with Sodexo was a sham, and he suggested holding off making a decision on the price of lunch until the board’s June meeting.

Gasperini then called for the question, and Potts asked for a roll call vote that failed.

“See you next month,” Potts said to Camp who responded, “I’ll be here.”

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com