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BISD board to renegotiate soft drink contract

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Bandera ISD's 10-year contract with San Antonio Bottling Company expires on May 15. The district's administrators and the board of trustees are looking at their options for the vending machine contract. SABC sells Coca Cola products.

According to Tish Grill, the district's business manager, the existing contract paid Bandera ISD an annual payment of $14,000. That money was distributed to the campus principals for their activity funds.

After the contract was agreed upon in 2003, the USDA passed laws and established rulings and guidelines on Foods of Minimal Nutritional Value, which stopped the sale of sodas anywhere in or near school cafeterias.

Because of these legal changes, "Coca Cola did not earn the revenue they expected from the full service vending machines," Grill told the board at this month's regular meeting, held Monday, April 8. As a consequence, SABC is offering a big decrease in the annual compensation to the district, dropping to $2,500, in a proposed new contract. They are also seeking an increase in the price charged per drink from one dollar to $1.50.

The district currently has 22 vending machines and 25 coolers in the cafeterias and concession stands provided by the contractor, Grill explained. "If the district chooses to eliminate the vending machine contract completely, the booster clubs and the cafeteria will have to purchase the necessary equipment to sell drinks."

Some members of the board said the mark-ups are so high on the sodas that booster groups make very little on their concession sales. "It's so much cheaper to buy the drinks in bulk from Costco," said one.

Profit margins are also higher with fountain drinks, said board member Greg Hicks, who spoke from his experience at the Mayan Guest Ranch.

Board member Don Miller said he understood the booster groups' desire to make more money from concessions by providing their own stock, but he has seen those times when no one wanted to shop for the supplies, get the ice, and generally make sure everything was stocked for every event. "Someone also has to keep track of all the money," said Superintendent Regina Howell.

With a contract, Grill explained, the contractor is responsible for any expired product, storing product, as well as maintaining the machines and equipment. "It's pretty much worry free," she said.

Board member Laurie Neff, who is active with the Bulldog Booster Club, pointed out that the coolers cost $2-$3 thousand each.

"The biggest value in having a contract is the equipment," said Grill.

"Are we really concerned about how much we make, or about providing a service for the kids?" asked Miller.

Under directions from the board, Grill will come back to the May board meeting, Monday, May 13, with more information about the proposed contract, including signing up for a shorter term, like three years, in order to give booster groups time to consider purchasing their own equipment; requesting an increase of less than $1.50 per purchase; and looking at the possibility of having fountain drinks in the concession stands.