Officials Consider Taking Loss on Old Lunch Debt
School officials discussed ways to deal with about $24,000 worth of outstanding debt from unpaid school lunch bills at a meeting yesterday.
As school officials mull ways to recoup about $26,000 in lunch debt owed by Wellesley families, one such solution came to light at a meeting yesterday: chalk it up to a loss.
At a Thursday afternoon meeting including principals, members of the School Committee, administrators and a representative from new food service vendor Whitsons, School Business Manager Judy Belliveau said the nearly $24,000 in debt incurred prior to the 2011-2012 school year could be looked at as a “business loss.”
In total, 30 families are responsible for $23,856.75 in school lunch debt, which dates back to an undetermined time prior to the implementation of a new school lunch policy and school lunch service system at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, according to Belliveau.
Belliveau said families in many cases questioned whether they owed the money at all.
“There was a sense that the communication between the schools as well as the old…system was not necessarily accurate,” she said.
School officials were able to whittle the original total debt down from $170,000 to $24,000 by May 1. And though letters from constables, officials and calls from principals followed, Belliveau said payments since May have been minimal.
“At this point, do we consider it a business loss?” she said.
The total remaining amount owed by families is less than 2 percent of the annual income of the food service program, which is about $1 million per year, Belliveau said. The schools incurred $2,157 of additional debt last year, but that is typical and likely to be recovered, according to Superintendent David Lussier.
Under the current school lunch policy, drafted in June 2011, a student must hold a balance equivalent to 10 lunches. If a student reaches zero, that student may have five “alternative” lunches, which the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education defines as a cheese sandwich, vegetable, fruit and milk. After that, the student may not be served a lunch.
There was no action taken on the policy at the meeting, and Lussier said he did not know whether there would be a new policy put in place prior to the start of school, Sept. 4, but that the administration and School Committee are in good position to implement a new policy if necessary.