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Lunch program puts schools in debt

January 29, 2003|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

Martinsburg, W.Va. - Like the problems neighboring Jefferson County faced last year, failure to pay for student lunches has left the Berkeley County school system with debt.

Assistant Superintendent of Schools Jim Welton told Berkeley County Board of Education members Monday night that nonpayment of student lunches has caused a debt of $244,196.

The debt peaked at about $294,000 in 1998, Welton said.

That was following a period in which students were allowed to charge two or three meals at a time and there was no limit on how many charges parents could accumulate, Welton said.

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School officials later limited parents to charges of up to $60 worth of meals, Welton said.

In addition to that cost-cutting measure, school officials have been taking action against people in Berkeley County Magistrate Court for not paying their bills.

"The debt is decreasing, it's just going to take time," said Superintendent of Schools Manny Arvon.

School Board member Rick Pill said he was pleased that the debt was decreasing but believes the issue needs further study.

Pill said he wants school officials to examine school meal programs in other counties to see how those systems are managed.

Last year, Jefferson County schools officials decided to eliminate the practice of students charging their meals.

Administrators ended the ability to charge meals after a large number of parents did not pay their food bills.

At that time, past due food bills had reached about $87,000 in Jefferson County, school officials said.

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