PERRYSBURG – Penta Career Center is continuing to provide free meals to students.

Food service Supervisor Kelsey Frazier provided her annual report to the school board at its Nov. 9 meeting.

She said the district is “doing what’s right” by continuing to offer free meals to students.

For the last two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has offered a free school meals program, but canceled that program for the start of this school year.

Frazier said the kitchen serves approximately 440 breakfasts and 1,050 lunches each day.

She said the free meals eliminate cost barriers for students and an incentive to eat, eliminates monthly delinquency collections and provides peace of mind to students.

She said 940 students have filled out the free and reduced meals applications, which allows reimbursement to the district for those meals.

Frazier said 33% of Penta’s students qualify, and her department has made phone calls and has sent emails and letters to encourage families to sign up.

Changes this year include a digital menu on new TV screens, a made-to-order deli and a condiment station.

The cafeteria provides three hot options and three cold options every day, Frazier said.

Superintendent Ed Ewers asked if there has been a change in the number of students eating lunch now that it is free.

Frazier said the numbers are always highest in August and September and then start to taper, but she hasn’t seen that year.

She said the about 15 districts in the state are doing this.

Ewers said it is a positive for students and staff.

“That idea of not having that stress of collecting delinquent accounts and a kid being put in a position of having no money … they can now focus on what is happening in their labs and their classrooms,” Ewers said.

Frazier said that food and supply costs are up roughly 15%, and she doesn’t foresee supply chain normalization until the end of 2023.

Treasurer Carrie Herringshaw presented her five-year forecast at the meeting.

While Penta should stay in the black for the next five years, the school district will dig deep into its reserves, according to its five-year forecast.

Finance committee chairman Eric Benington, who represents Perrysburg schools, reported there is projected to be a positive cash balance through the next five years.

According to the forecast presented by Herringshaw, the district is projected to outspend revenue for each of the next five years, to the amount of $5.17 million in fiscal year 2027.

Benington said there should be a slight increase in property tax collections but that the district was expecting a 12% increase in benefits expenses during the forecast.

Property tax collections are expected to be $12.58 million this fiscal year and $12.97 million in fiscal year 2027.

Benington said the state’s fair school funding plan is set to extend another year, and the district should see growth in that revenue due to enrollment increases.

Herringshaw said that enrollment projections include 16 students per year.

Unrestricted state funds are projected to increase from $13.25 million this year to $13.66 million in five years.

During that same period, total revenues are expected to increase from $35.45 million to $36.60 million.

Expenses over the next five years are tied to contracts and the growth in staffing, Benington said.

Salaries are projected to increase from $19.72 million this year to $22.32 million in five years.

The classified and certified staff certified contracts through 2023 and 2025, respectively.

Benefits are predicted at $7.40 million this fiscal year and $10.17 million in fiscal year 2027.

Nothing has been budgeted for capital outlay, and the district’s permanent improvement fund will be used for those expenses, Benington said.

The district will transfer $450,000 each year to the food service fund to cover the district’s costs of continuing to provide free meals for students.

Expenses are expected to increase from $37.12 million this year and $41.77 million in fiscal year 2027.

The unreserved cash balance is projected to be $15.92 million at the end of this year and $312,014 in fiscal year 2027.

Herringshaw said that information presented in the forecast is subject to change.

“We’re in good shape for this year,” she said, and added she will be watching state funding for any changes.