A recently released fiscal audit of Oakwood Schools shows the district runs a financial loss in its cafeteria operation most years, something school administrators say is common among school districts and driven by the desire to fund food options for students with better nutrition.
The audit found the district’s Food Service Fund had a $401,513 deficit at the end of the 2018 fiscal year.
Oakwood school officials say that its ongoing six-figure deficit in its Food Service Fund does not amount to a shortage of cash to balance that line-item in the budget.
“Recent questions regarding a deficit in cafeteria spending in the Oakwood Schools concerns an accounting issue, not cash,” said Oakwood Superintendent Kyle Ramey. “The negative fund balance is the result of accumulated losses on school lunches over a period of years. All our bills have been paid.”
The district addresses the problem by taking money from its general fund reserves to cover the deficit spending. Ramey said the practice is common among school districts.
“Oakwood Schools is not unique in running a deficit in cafeteria operations, many districts lose money on this service every year,” Ramey said. “Our parents have told us they want nutritious food options - not junk food, which is highly profitable. We are making nutritious options available to our students.”
The Ohio auditor’s office found the district had deficits in its Food Service Fund numerous times in recent years: in 2002, for $106,800, 2007 for $396,235, 2008, for $462,349, 2011, for $282,118, 2013, for $506,269, 2014, for $461,688 and 2016, a deficit was listed as $612,269.
Moving forward, the district is focusing on using new software to track meals, and to let parents know they treat food service to students as an essential service.
“In an effort to provide nutritious lunches, our food service managers are using new software that allows them to plan meals that are nutritious and cost effective,” Ramey said. “For parents, the My School Menu app provides parents the opportunity to see what is being served for lunch and the nutritional make-up of each item.”
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