The Broward County (FL) School District food and nutrition services department has lost about $22 million in the past five years, according to an audit commissioned by the school district, reports the Miami Herald. The results were presented to an audit committee reviewing the department’s finances as part of a larger district initiative to identify sources of wasteful spending.
Broward's food and nutrition department, with a budget over $90 million and 230 school cafeteria sites, had a $21.5 million surplus five years ago but is now at a deficit of $600,000, forcing the district to subsidize the shortfall. Increased food and labor costs, along with mandates for serving more expensive healthier foods, have put pressure on the district cost structure, the auditors acknowledged.
However, they note that the revenue shortfalls at Broward were still larger than at comparable other districts in the state, and that Broward’s per-student loss was the highest in Florida, despite price increases in both 2006 and 2008. The report cites maintenance/repair costs as a major cash drain, exploding from under $250,000 in 2002-03 to more than $2.5 million this year.
Other problem areas cited by the auditors include revenues and expenses not being tracked at the unit level, making determinations of the relative popularity of different items at different sites impossible; not offering free and reduced afterschool snacks for which Broward would be eligible to get federal reimbursement; staffing inefficiencies; and lack of aggressive bargaining with vendors, leading to higher procurement costs.