School lunch fees may be coming to Philipsburg-Osceola schools

For the CDTOctober 17, 2013 

— Busy parents at many schools now take advantage of the convenience of electronic banking to load children’s accounts and keep them in chicken nuggets and chocolate milk.

But convenience comes at a price, and for Philipsburg-Osceola, that price is about $10,000 a year.

That’s how much electronic funds transfers — both from credit card payments and automatic checking account withdrawals — are costing the district. The cost comes from fees of 15 cents per transaction plus 2.39 percent of the amount loaded.

Lunch at P-O costs $2.45 for middle and high school students and $2.20 for elementary. That means that a $50 deposit lasts about one month, if a student doesn’t eat breakfast or buy extras a la carte. That costs the district $1.34 in fees.

“The district absorbs that,” said Superintendent Gregg Paladina.

Online payments have increased dramatically in recent years. In 2007-08, the district processed $132,000 in payments. In 2012-13, it was up to $242,000. The number would be higher, but about half of P-O students receive free or reduced-price lunches.

Food Service manager Laura Frye is suggesting a $1.95 transaction fee to cover the costs the district is eating. Paladina said that all Clearfield County schools that process electronic payments charge fees of $1.75 to $2.25.

At State College Area School District, a $1.95 fee is charged through MySchoolBucks.com, but its website states “The State College Area School District does not profit from the use of this site.” Bellefonte’s form doesn’t mention a fee. Penns Valley also uses MySchoolBucks and Bald Eagle Area uses MySchoolAccount.com, but specific information about transaction fees was unavailable for them.

“You hate to charge,” said Paladina, “but we’re paying for it anyway. It drives up lunch prices.”

Board members don’t anticipate a backlash from parents.

“If they’re using online, I think that most would be willing to pay (the fee),” said board member Jim Verbeck.

“If it’s explained to people, I don’t think there will be a problem,” said board member Susan McGee.

The measure will be up for vote Tuesday. Paladina said that if passes, it will go into effect Nov. 1.

Parents who don’t want to pay the fee can avoid it by paying for lunches via paper checks.

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