BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – After sending more than $70,000 to collections for past due meal accounts, the Fort Madison School District has implemented a new policy that limits the amounts families can charge for meals.
At Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Fort Madison Community School District board, the board voted 5-0 to approve the new package effective with the 2017 -2018 school year.
According to the new meal policy, when students’ accounts reach a $0 balance, charges will be able to be made up to $10 on the account before the account is frozen until it is brought current.
Superintendent Erin Slater said students will still be able to pay cash or present a check for lunch after the account is frozen on a meal-to-meal basis, but no charges will be allowed until the account is brought current.
Board member Dianne Hope asked if the $10 limit was per student or per account as some families have more than one child on an account.
Slater said it would be per account.
Board member Carol Ross said she thought the amount was too low considering some in the district have multiple members on accounts and in some cases that could be just one day.
Slater said the district had to have a policy on the books per Iowa Association of School Board’s regulations by July 1.
Board President Timm Lamb said board members could ask for an update on how the policy is going, but the board would not be able to change the policy mid-year.
Hope said she wanted an update from the food service staff at some point as to how the program is doing.
“That’s a lot. That’s a tremendous amount of money,” she said. “Do we have an audit process in place to make sure this policy is working.”
Lamb said the policy can be reviewed.
“We can review this about halfway through the year. But we’ve got to get it started and then we can see how it goes, but we won’t able to change it mid-year,” Lamb said.
Hope said she didn’t want to change the new policy midstream.
“I just want to know how it’s working,” she said.
The policy carries over to district employees as well. Those employees will not be able to charge more than $10 on their account, which will then be frozen until it is paid in full.
Students will not be turned away for non-payment, Slater said. An alternative meal without the main course will be provided as reimbursable for students beyond the $10 limit.
Families will be notified when the account balance reaches zero. Negative balances greater than $100 will be turned over to the Superintendent for collection attempts and could be turned over to a collection agency if payments are not made.
In other action, the council:
- voted unanimously to approve the master contract between the Fort Madison Community School Board and the Fort Madison Educational Association. The contract is for two years, but can be re-opened for salary negotiations after the 2017-18 school year.
- voted unanimously to approve travel for the Clay Crushers trap shooting team to travel to the national competition this year.
- voted to unanimously approve salary contracts for staff, directors, food service and union employees.