Baltimore County children will have to pay 20 cents more for a cafeteria lunch and 10 cents more for a cafeteria breakfast when the school year begins next month.
The school board approved last night the first raise in student meal prices since 1992.
The increase will not affect children from low-income families who receive free and reduced-price meals.
According to a chart presented by staff to the board, each meal served to students paying full price cost the school system about 26 cents, and costs are steadily rising.
The goal is to eventually have students cover the entire cost of their meals, said Rita Fromm, executive director of planning and support operations.
Middle and high school students will pay $1.80 for lunch in the coming year. The price will be increased 40 cents a year for two subsequent years, with lunches topping out at $2.60 in the 2006-2007 school year. The $1.25 price for breakfast will increase an additional 15 cents a year for the next four years.
Elementary school lunches will increase to $1.70 this year and then will increase 40 cents for the next two years. Breakfasts will increase from $1 to $1.10 this year, and then 15 cents a year for the next four years.
Baltimore County's meal prices have been the fourth-lowest among Maryland school districts, according to information school system staff provided to the board. During the school year that ended last month, lunches cost $1.50 at elementary schools and $1.60 at middle and high schools. Prices are higher for older children because portions are bigger.
Lunch prices throughout Maryland range from $1.25 to $1.75 at elementary schools and $1.50 to $2 at middle and high schools.
The board considered a range of options to phase in the price increase. One would have had students covering the full meal cost by 2011. Other options would have meant steeper price increases over less time.
The district serves about 2.5 million breakfasts and 8.8 million lunches annually, Fromm said.
In other action, the board unanimously elected James R. Sasiadek to a second year-long term as president last night. Sasiadek, 56, is also a city educator -- principal of Thomas Johnson Elementary School in South Baltimore.
Board member Thomas Grzymski was elected vice president, replacing Janese Murray.
Murray is one of four board members whose terms expired last month. She and Jean M.H. Jung are seeking reappointment by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Two others -- Phyllis E. Ettinger and James E. Walker -- are retiring from the board.
A spokeswoman for the governor said yesterday that she did not know when he will make the appointments.
Also last night, a group of northeastern county residents who advise the school board urged it to build a new high school to relieve overcrowding in Perry Hall, Towson and other growing communities.
The Northeast Area Educational Advisory Council has made construction of a new school its top priority, said Walter R. Hayes, the council's new chairman.
After studying enrollment trends for six months, a consultant hired by the school system concluded last year that a new high school is needed to ease crowding in the northeast and central areas of the county.