SHEFFIELD -- The Southern Berkshire Regional School year capped the 2013 fiscal year on a positive note, despite financial challenges in its cafeteria.

The district finished the year with a surplus of $210,000 that will be rolled over into the next budget cycle. The information was presented during the district's most recent Finance Committee meeting.

"The 2013 year was an extraordinarily successful year for us on an academic and financial end," Finance Committee Chairman Vito Valentini said on Saturday. "If 2014 is anything like 2013, everything is just golden, we're just aces."

Valentini expressed pride about the school operations, but also said the district's cafeteria operations spent $44,000 more than anticipated in part because of new cafeteria regulations.

But the district finished the year with rosy budget numbers because expenses were lower than anticipated and it received higher distributions from the state than originally anticipated.

The district gained $40,000 because of higher-than-anticipated Chapter 70 funds and a higher state Medicaid reimbursement. It also spent $210,000 less than expected.

Two new regulations have impacted cafeterias across the state.

The USDA's Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act aims to improve students' nutrition and reduce child obesity through its National School Lunch and Breakfast program. The state's Competitive Foods and Beverage Nutrition Standards limit and prohibit in some cases the sale of sugary or caffeinated beverages and traditional high-calorie snacks sold in vending machines.

SBRSD isn't the only district that is searching for answers to generate cafeteria savings. Financial figures disclosed by Pittsfield Public Schools earlier this year showed the district was headed for an operating loss of more than $100,000.

Half the total deficit resulted from an aging food warming line system, but there was also a drop in the number of lunches served and a drop in revenue from snacks and drinks.

In the later half of the year, SBRSD made efforts to expand cafeteria options and revive slumping sales, but it wasn't enough to prevent a budget deficit.

The district could receive a presentation as soon as July 25 about proposed changes to the cafeteria operations.

"I feel that we have an issue that needs careful consideration because a $40,000 surprise can be a disaster in a budget," Valentini said.

To reach John Sakata:
jsakata@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata