As announced at the Sierra Vista Unified School District’s Governing Board meeting on Jan. 5, a motion was approved to consolidate the district’s Food Services Program to address the program’s increasing deficit.

Assistant Superintendent and Human Resources Director Kelly Segal said at the meeting the Food Services Program was intended to be “self-sufficient” but has carried a deficit due to decreasing student enrollment, overstaffing and increased food costs.

SVUSD Superintendent Dr. Eric Holmes said the program has produced a deficit since 2018. Chief Financial Officer Kenneth McGovern had questioned the deficit at a previous board meeting.

McGovern noted during the Jan. 5 meeting that changing staff and increasing meal prices to address the deficit would help, but said that could not take affect until next school year.

“A combination of items have to take place in order for Food Services to come back in and be self-sustaining,” McGovern said. “But with the drop in ADM (average daily membership) and the decrease in meals served, we aren’t getting that extra amount for local sales, as well as we’re continuing to be overstaffed.”

Holmes said the program has a deficit of $317,000. He said the program will continue to operate, but changes in staff and operations need to be made this spring.

“We have an issue and we need to deal with that issue, because if we do not take some sort of action, we estimate that we could wind up by the end of this school year, (with) $500,000 to $750,000 in the red, in terms of a deficit.” Holmes said at the Dec. 17 meeting.

Former president of the board Barbara Williams clarified that funding from the federal government’s CARES Act is not included in the total.

Holmes said the federal aid does allocate some funding for expenditures, but that money only applies to the number of meals sold, which has been affected by school closures.

The board voted unanimously to approve two initiatives.

First, the number of meal pick-up sites will be limited. Initially, SVUSD offered meals for pick up at the district’s eight schools, but only Buena High School and Carmichael Elementary will continue the service.

Food Service Program Manager Benito Zamudio said the meal pick-up time is 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. for breakfast and lunch. There will be no change in these times.

Second, there will be 17 personnel changes. Segal said nine food service employees will be terminated and eight will be furloughed.

Segal said the food services employees are “at-will” hires but will be encouraged by the district to apply for positions in the district for which they are qualified.

“We are going to be doing some structural changes to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Holmes said. “That will entail us being more specific with our budgets, including more folks in the process, and making sure that all of our department heads have the information that they need in order to make these sorts of decisions, and that information was not readily available to our department heads for the last three years.”