SHERIDAN — Sheridan County School District 3 made changes to its school meals program and passed a slimmed-down budget for the upcoming school year Wednesday at its regular board meeting.
Board members voted to take the district off of the federal school lunch program. Superintendent Charles Auzqui said the move will help cut down on food waste, increase participation in the school lunch program by making meals that are more appealing to students and free up administrative time, since the federal program required significant tracking, compliance and other paperwork.
The district will lose food-related federal money but Business Manager Greg Rohrer hopes that by cutting down on staff time needed to facilitate the federal program, a new lunch program would be cost-effective.
Auzqui said that in making the decision, district officials considered successes that Sheridan County School District 1 and other Wyoming districts have had in moving off of the federal program.
The district’s new $3.8 million budget for the 2016-2017 school year is $600,000 less than last year’s, but Auzqui is more concerned about next year’s cuts than this year’s.
Districts are currently slated to take a 1.4 percent reduction in state funding next year. With SCSD3’s enrollment declining and that trend expected to continue, it will likely lose per-pupil funding.
Auzqui said kids in his district, the smallest in the state, deserve the same educational opportunities that kids in larger districts have, but that the cost of doing business in rural Wyoming makes that difficult to achieve.
“That is a challenge for small schools,” he said. “One or two kids affect our scores. One or two kids affect our funding. When you’re operating already on a skeletal staff […] it’s a tough road.”
The district lost 1.5 full-time equivalents, or what amounts to 1.5 full-time positions, to deal with the $600,000 cut. This happened through attrition and requiring existing staff to take on extra responsibilities. No employees were terminated because of the cut, and no one will receive a raise this year.