LITCHFIELD — Selectmen have a whopper of a late lunch bill.

Regional School Unit 4 recently sent an invoice for just more than $37,000, saying the outstanding debt from 2009 was never billed. The district also says Sabattus owes almost $52,000 and Wales almost $12,000 for the school lunch programs.

“I am appalled that for three years this amount of money had not been collected and they hadn’t identified it,” Rayna Leibowitz, chairman of Litchfield’s Board of Selectmen, said Wednesday. “What kind of bookkeeping system do they have over there that they lost track of $101,000 that was owed to them for three years?”

RSU 4, which includes Litchfield, Sabattus and Wales, began operating July 1, 2009, a day after the previous school administrative unit, which covered the same towns, was disbanded.

The bill from Scott Eldridge, business manager for the school district, says the debt was uncovered while the district was researching the school unit’s formation and its debt service.

“It has come to our attention that certain debts owed by each town at the time of the RSU formation were never conveyed back to the towns for collection,” he wrote.

The notice, which selectmen first heard about at their meeting Tuesday, “was like a bolt from the blue,” said Michael Byron, Litchfield’s town manager.

The amounts include bills for the each towns’ schools as well as apportioned costs for the lunch program at Oak Hill High School in Wales, which serves the district.

Leibowitz said there must be some additional justification for the three-year-old bills.

“There is no evidence the school board knows about this, and it really needs to go through the school board before it comes to the Town Office,” she said.

Leibowitz said the money is not included in the budget. “They’re going to have to wait at least until we can prepare the budget for 2013,” she said.

On Wednesday, Eldridge said the bill from the 2008-2009 school year reflects part of the cost of operating the program.

“The towns previously all had separate accounts they paid school accounts from, and school budgets were approved at each of the individual town meetings,” Eldridge said.

Now, the RSU 4 budget goes for a public vote at a district-wide town meeting and then to referendum at the polls in each town.

Eldridge said he tried to talk to officials in all three towns about the bill before he sent it.

Officials from Wales said they would put it on the annual Town Warrant in 2013, he said.

School Superintendent Jim Hodgkin said Wednesday he had yet to discuss the matter with Sabattus officials, but that school administrators anticipated having to wait for another budget cycle for payment.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

badams@centralmaine.com