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Food service outsourcing still in play as Palisades eyes May 15 budget vote


Following the unusual April 17 decision to send the proposed 2024-25 operating budget back to committee this late in the process, Palisades School District officials provided an update at the May 1 school board meeting.

It included some of the results of a special April 29 Fiscal Committee meeting. The proposed final budget is now scheduled to be presented for a vote at the May 15 board meeting.

If it doesn’t pass on that evening, the board would have to schedule special meetings to comply with mandated timelines for the budget process.

The possibility of changing the district’s acclaimed food service program from in-house to outsourced was noted as moving forward for further definition.

The board emphasized that the district’s food service employees were respected for their work and as active members of the community they serve.

In addition, during retirement announcements, they have been often noted as very familiar to the students they serve, and a significant part of student experience at Palisades.

The board also noted the high quality of the food was also assured to be a consideration in the matter, while continuation of the nutritional standards developed over the years by a special wellness subcommittee of the board was not particularly addressed during the meeting.

Ad hoc negotiations for the next contract for the district’s support staff, which includes the food service workers, were announced as continuing, with next meetings of that committee scheduled for May 15 and June 5.

Meanwhile, officials reported they had been able to add a new kindergarten teacher, and also another elementary school teacher, with salary attrition elsewhere resulting in a net savings of $444,000 annually.

Parents continued their concern during recent meetings, in the public comments session, about the effectiveness of one program being served by a teacher with split responsibilities. But this time another parent countered that his daughter had done well in the same program under those same circumstances.

Split responsibilities has also been a tool in recent years for controlling administration salary costs. For example, the former district curriculum director now serves as an assistant to the superintendent in those matters, while now also replacing a retired elementary school principal.

The district’s no-tax increase budget for 2023-2024 was its fifth since 2011-2012. While other local districts had to increase taxes significantly during the same period, especially due to expected higher pension and other costs, Palisades established a method to avoid that, featuring the use of special fund balances kept for tapping as needed, and developed primarily by using savings gained from budgeting for worst-case scenarios.

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