Lunchroom debt hard to swallow for local schools
by Mark Andrews
Nov 10, 2011 | 2488 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bartow County and City of Cartersville schools find they must keep an eye on the money they take in for lunches or it can add up to a debt that still has to be paid by the system. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, file
Bartow County and City of Cartersville schools find they must keep an eye on the money they take in for lunches or it can add up to a debt that still has to be paid by the system. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News, file
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While many disadvantaged students rely on free or reduced lunches at school to supplement their nutrition, others who pay full price and leave outstanding debt end up causing some school systems to dip into their general fund.

Bartow County Public Schools Superintendent John Harper said during Monday's work session the system is currently owed $16,000 along with $8,000 worth of outstanding debt that has to be paid by the school system.

"We have some bad checks that people have given us who are no longer here. We have meal charges for people who are no longer here," Harper said.

He said it was suggested by school auditors that the system write off the $8,000 worth of debt.

"We'll be working with our principals very closely and our nutrition managers. We've had significant balances there in the past and before the end of the year comes around our food service [employees] and principals work very closely together to collect as much of that money [as possible]," Harper said. "We regret that we have almost $8,000 worth of money we'll have to write off from the general fund."

Director of School Nutrition Pam Blakeney said the program was required to regularly stay in good financial standing.

"We cannot carry a bad debt -- school nutrition is a federal program -- and that's why we're asking [the money] be taken from the general fund," Blakeney said.

The school board is expected to vote Monday to surplus several items from school nutrition, but a projected dollar amount to be received is not available at this time.

Cartersville Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Ken Clouse said although the school system faces student debt, it amounts to less than 1 percent of the system's total revenue.

"By policy our children are allowed to charge up to $20 in lunches before we get more aggressive about either making calls or sending letters," Clouse said. "I know our schools use our ConnectEd message to go out to parents when there's a debt that needs to be taken care of and we send a note home with the child and they leave that recorded message that the child should have brought home a list of charges that need to be taken care of."

He said the amount of student debt has not caused the system to use money from the general fund and are able to pay the debt through the school nutrition fund.

"For the most part our parents are pretty good about taking care of [charges] and not letting that get out of hand," Clouse said. "I know some of it's the economy, but people still have a responsibility to pay their debts."