School District to Hire Agency to Collect Lunch Money

Monday, 27 Feb 2012 05:41 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Columbus, Ohio, schools plan to hire a collection agency to go after parents of nearly 6,000 students in an attempt to recover $900,000 in unpaid lunch money. The district plans to turn over accounts where families owe more than $50 for lunches, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
 
If parents still don’t pay up, the district plans to notify credit rating agencies, the Board of Education said. 
 
The average amount owed, among families who owe more than $50, is around $150, but some parents owe more than $400, said District Food Services Director Joe Brown. About 90 percent of the parents in the district who are behind on lunch payments, though, owe less than $50.
 
“That’s why, by targeting over $50, we’re making the assumption that those are the people who are the more-habitual offenders,” Brown said.
 
Meade and Associates of Westerville, the sole agency to apply for the work, will keep 26 percent of the money it collects. Parents have until March 23 to pay their bills before the school district hands the debts off for collection.
 
School board members have been after Superintendent Gene Harris and Brown to start cracking down on families who are behind on their payments, and to track down people whose children qualify for a free-or reduced-price lunch, but don’t apply for the federal program.
 
In Columbus, 70 percent of students qualify for free lunch, and a small percent of students get a reduced price of 40 cents per meal. However, the district is serving about $2,622 in unpaid lunches every day, and the schools need the cash to fund its food-service program.

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