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Leechburg Area to drop food service, resume operation of cafeteria

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 1:36 a.m.

Leechburg Area students should have a greater selection of food for their lunches, and their meals should taste better, as the district reassumes operation of its cafeteria, school board Vice President Jean Stull says.

The district will be working with Highlands School District in bringing its food service program back in-house beginning in the 2013-14 school year.

Stull said it will be for a one-year trial. “We're going to see how it works,” she said.

The district is ending its relationship with The Nutrition Group. Leechburg Area brought the company in as consultants in spring 2007, and hired it to manage the cafeteria operation in the fall of that year, Business Manager Mark Lukacs said.

Stull said the district has been dissatisfied with the company's performance, and students have complained about the food — notably that too much chicken is served.

The board named Ann Marie Crosby, an administrative assistant in the district's business office, as food service director for the 2013-14 school year. She will be paid a stipend of nearly $11,000 for the food service director duties in addition to her salary of about $38,000.

The board also approved bringing in Sharon Conway, food service director at Highlands School District, as a consultant for the coming school year. She will be paid $20,000.

By making the change, the district will save about $35,000 in salaries and benefits over the current contract, Lukacs said.

Superintendent Jim Budzilek said the district sought bids for cafeteria services, but the school board also asked administrators to look at other avenues.

“We reached out to Highlands, who has an outstanding food service director,” he said. “Through discussions, we were able to work out a collaborative agreement to share services and save money. In these tough economic times, we are able to have Ms. Conway help provide services while saving local funds.”

No tax increase expected

Creating an option for full-day kindergarten, without a tax increase, will be part of continuing budget talks by the school board, member Anthony Shea said.

The school board has approved the district's preliminary $12.9 million budget for the 2013-14 school year.

The property tax would remain 106.56 mills in West Leechburg.

It would change slightly in Leechburg and Gilpin, from 64.49 mills to 64.91 mills, because of the state formula used to equalize tax rates between the two counties.

A final vote on the budget is scheduled for June 19.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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