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Frazee-Vergas District referring lunch debts to collection agency

FRAZEE -  The Frazee-Vergas School District is taking drastic measures because of some bad debts.

The district is out more than $18,000 because of unpaid lunch tickets.

After many unsuccessful attempts to collect, the school board is getting a collection agency involved.

School leaders are faced with a tough decision.

"Do we pull the plate or allow them to continue to eat and generate a deficit," said Superintendent Deron Stender.

Right now, the district lets the kids eat. About 75 families now owe the district money.

A lunch costs $1.50, which includes milk. If a student does not pay that once a week all year, by the end of the year it will cost 54 dollars.

"The amount that we're starting to accrue is becoming something than the district financially just can't handle," Stender said.

The superintendent said the school sends notices when a child's account gets low and again when they go in the hole.

"It's taking a lot of our district's administrative time and office staff time," Stender said.

But many families aren't responding, so it was proposed to hire a collection agency that would help recover the money and take thirty percent as a fee. The proposal passed a school board vote 5 to 2.

"I thought it was pretty impersonal for a small district and I think it's going to ultimately end up just being another stress on a lot of families that are living paycheck to paycheck anyhow," said Mike Hiemanz, one of the school board member's who voted against the plan.

Hiemenz said the district can't afford to let the money slide.

"18,000 dollars can fund a lot of activities," Hiemanz said.

However, he said that it shouldn't have resorted to hiring a collection agency.

Both sides agree to focus more on getting families enrolled in the state and federally funded free and reduced meal plan to prevent the problem from getting worse while ensuring kids don't go unfed.

To apply for a free or reduced lunch plan, or to find out if you qualify, contact or drop by any of the Frazee schools or the district office.