Posted: Sep 20, 2012 5:53 PM
Updated: Sep 21, 2012 12:13 AM
LA JOYA - Students at La Joya Independent School District may lose their school meals.
Money for the district's entire free meal program is in jeopardy. The state claims the district didn't serve all the food it reported.
"We have about 91 to 92 percent of our students participating in the free lunch program," said Alfredo Andres Vela, assistant superintendent for finance.
"It takes about $1.5 million per month to operate the child nutrition department," he said.
Human errors, however, could cost nearly 26,000 students their meals.
Two failed state audits now have the district scrambling for funding.
"They've cut off the reimbursements," Vela said.
He said the district is dipping into its coffers to bankroll the program.
"We are still filing a claim, and based on what happens in December, we will get those moneys back," he said.
The problem, he said, is that the numbers don't add up. The district claimed it served more meals than it did.
In December, 2011, monitors found an over count of more than 4,600 meals. In March the discrepancy was more than 3,200 meals.
Vela said a form used to count the meals may be the root of the problem.
"In one instance, I know it had to do with the form we were using," he said.
He said the problem wasn't in the kitchen, but rather at the end of the line where they count how many meals were served.
"We've taken some steps to correct what we're going through," Vela said.
"We had four campuses reviewed in March ... and we had those problems at two of the four schools," he said.
Vela said the problem was preventable.
"We needed to do a better job of claiming and analyzing our menus," he said.
He said the problem will be corrected and the money will flow again.
"We feel very confident that we're going to pass the audit in December," he said.