Negaunee schools may privatize food service

The Negaunee Public Schools Board of Education has its annual budget hearing this coming Monday.

The district is facing a deficit for the next school year of nearly $300,000.

It may contract out the food service program to a private company to eliminate part of the deficit.

The Negaunee schools asked for proposals this spring from any groups that believed they could provide food service less expensively.

“They have received one bid, from a company called Chartwells,” Michigan Education Association UniServ director for Marquette and Alger counties Sku Skauge said. “They have an office, I guess, down near Detroit, actually a British company.”

“Our present employees, I understand, would like to make a proposal to the board on how they think they can run the program and save the district money,” Negaunee Public Schools superintendent Jim Derocher said. “The union had an opportunity to submit a proposal at the time the proposals were due, and they chose not to do that.”

The Negaunee Public Schools are expecting a $77,000 deficit for food service next year.

They provide meals for not only their own students, but also Ishpeming students.

“Our concern, of course, is we have 20 MEA members that would be out of work,” Skauge said. “We’re very concerned that we’re taking money from the community.”

“All of our present employees will have an opportunity to apply for jobs with Chartwells,” Derocher said. “They like to hire locally, like to have people in the schools that have been in the schools, so I am thinking that that’s going to happen. They’re not going to bring in people from the outside.”

Contract talks for the district’s support staff are due to begin soon.

Derocher says the food service program is struggling because of rising food prices and personnel costs.

Skauge says the district has not asked for concessions on wages or benefits from its food service workers.