Schools look to collect on lunch debt


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Unpaid lunch accounts can often be a problem that plagues many school districts’ finances. Some districts are taking a more aggressive approach to recoup.

Lower Dauphin School District has more than 3,700 students and has recently started using collection agencies to recoup those unpaid lunches.

In December, district officials discovered they had lost more than $25,000 in unpaid accounts.

District spokesperson Jim Hazen says notices and certified letters were sent out to parents but were not repaid properly, so they decided to get help from a collection agency.

“The fees for the collection agency are paid by those who owe the [overdue debt],” said Hazen. “So, there is no additional cost to the taxpayer. We are just trying to recoup some of the money owed.”

Hazen says the superintendent sends out letters before collection efforts begin.

“We send out a letter at $25 and we send home another letter at $75,” Hazen said. “We try to set up a plan to pay the debt that they owe.”

Hazen says the district is not trying to embarrass parents, and students with overdue accounts can still get lunch but are not eligible for ala carte.

Hazen says they use the collection agency as a last resort.

“Circumstances change during the school year and we want to be aware of that,” Hazen said. “If parents get laid off or their finances change, we want to work with our families so they can meet their lunch obligations.”

Several other school districts in the region including West Shore School District use a collection agency for past due lunch accounts.

A spokesperson told abc27 that all students begin the new school year with a clean slate, even if their accounts were previously in collection status.

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