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Pasco County Schools looking into potential school lunch fraud find 'honest mistakes'

It appeared school employees were lying about income on free/reduced lunch forms for their kids, but an investigation revealed they made clerical errors.

LAND O' LAKES, Fla. — Pasco County Schools are looking into hundreds of district employees who got free and reduced school meals for their kids by putting incorrect information on their applications for the program. 

The district is calling the discrepancies a mass-clerical error.

District spokesperson Linda Cobbe said Wednesday that, after performing a mandatory annual audit, the district noticed more than two hundred employees with discrepancies between their actual salaries and the salaries reported on their applications.

"What it's turned out to be is that they either used their net instead of their gross, and that was verified that the numbers they used matched up with their net income, or that they had used a salary that they had before a recent raise. So, that's what the majority of the ones they've looked into have showed,” said Cobbe. 

"From the interviews that we've had with those employees, they appear to be honest mistakes, that they just put in the wrong numbers. But it's something that we're taking very seriously and when we saw it, that's when we turned it over to employee relations to make sure that we didn't have anyone that was committing fraud."

Cobbe added that one district employee who managed the food service eligibility program resigned in October when asked about a discrepancy on her application. All other employees with discrepancies on their applications are being asked to re-apply with accurate information.

District officials say they are continuing to look into the matter and are still conducting interviews with some of the employees involved. They hope to have their investigation completed by the end of the month.

10News reached out to other school districts around Tampa Bay and found that four counties (Hardee, Polk, Hernando and Highlands) offer free school meals to all students. They are reimbursed by the federal government for those meals.

Other districts in the area have varying prices for school meals.

Hillsborough: Breakfast is FREE for all students. Elementary lunch costs $2.25, and Secondary lunch costs $2.75. The reduced price lunch cost of 40¢ is waived (provided at no charge) for children approved for reduced price meals.

Pinellas: Cost for lunch : Elementary $2.25 

 Secondary School $2.75

 Breakfast free for all

Pasco:

Reduced Price Breakfast: $0.30
Reduced Price Lunch: $0.40

Full Price Breakfast

Elementary: $1.35
Secondary: $1.50
Charter K-8: $1.50
Charter High School: $1.65

Full Price Lunch

Elementary: $2.50
Middle: $3.00
High: $3.25
Charter K-8: $2.75
Charter High School: $3.50

Sarasota:

  • Elementary School
  • Paid Price: $2.25
  • Reduced Price: 0.40
  • Middle School
  • Paid Price: $2.50
  • Reduced Price: $0.40
  • High School
  • Paid Price: $2.75 & $3.00
  • Reduced Price: 0.40

Manatee: 

  • Breakfast free for all students
  • Reduced lunch is 40 cents for all students
  • Elementary lunch is $2.50
  • M/S and H/S is $2.75

Citrus:

  • Elementary: Breakfast $1 / Lunch $2
  • Secondary Level: Breakfast $1.25 / Lunch $2.25
  • Reduced prices is 30 cents for breakfast and 40 cents for lunch for all grade levels.