Friday, December 16, 2011

Changing Banks

We have our PTA bank account in a local branch of a national bank, and have used the same bank for many years.  Lately the bank has increased its fees significantly.  Can we change banks, and if so are there things we should watch out for.  

Of course you can change banks, but be sure to check your standing rules to see if they need to be changed first.  Sometimes a local unit or council’s standing rules will say something along the lines of “the PTA’s funds will be deposited in an account at such-and-such bank” and if that’s  the case they would need to be changed before actually opening a new account. 

Also, keep in mind that there are a number of different kinds of  financial institutions that offer the kinds of services that most PTAs need, so in addition to traditional banks you may want to look at credit unions, savings and loans or other kinds of financial services institutions.

Some things  to think about as you explore a new financial institution:  (1) safety (i.e. are your funds insured in case the financial institution encounters problems?); (2) services offered (i.e. will the institution provide duplicate bank statements, honor the PTA two-signature requirement, etc.); and (3) convenience (i.e. is it possible to make deposits and or engage in other transactions without having to travel long distances.)

More information about PTA accounts and money management in general is available in the Money Matters section of the Leadership Packet provided to your local unit at the beginning of the school year.  Money Matters is also available in the Leadership Resources section of the WSPTA website (password and user name provided in your Leadership Packets). 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Serving alcohol at PTA events off campus?

Our PTA is planning on holding a fund-raising auction in a non-school facility, where alcohol will be served.  We are using a caterer  who has the necessary liquor license.  It has been suggested that a school music group provide the background music during the ‘silent auction’ early in  the evening.  Is there a problem with school-aged children being present when liquor is being served?  Also what if parents want to bring their own children to the auction?

Before answering your question, let me suggest that you check with the Washington State Liquor Control Board To be sure that your event is  covered by the caterer’s liquor license, and with AIM to make sure your liability insurance will cover the event. 

As far as the student performing group, I’d check with the school and/or school district administration to make sure there are no policies limiting performances by such groups. 

Finally, while there certain kinds of establishments, such as bars and taverns, are prohibited from having children present, that prohibition does not apply to a private function such as this.  However the PTA may wish to consider whether it’s appropriate in all of the circumstances and adopt such a prohibition for this kind of event. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Can a PTA donate to the district levy campaign?

Our district will be conducting a levy election in the spring, and the committee that is campaigning for approval has asked our PTA for a contribution.  Is this something we can do without jeopardizing our tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3).

Yes, assuming that  the donation was included in the budget approved by the membership meeting, or is specifically approved at a general membership meeting.   Although PTAs that are tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code cannot become involved in elections for public office (such as school board, city council or the legislature), they can take positions on ballot propositions, such as levy and bond proposals, or even state-wide initiatives and referendum.  For a thorough discussion of the “dos” and “don’ts” in this area, check out this briefing paper under the advocacy tab of the WSPTA website.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Question About Donations

As treasurer of my local unit, I want to be sure that we meet our requirements to maintain our tax exempt status, but I'm confused by the two sample receipts in Money Matters. The first one talks about donations of $75 or more and the second one addresses donations of $250 or more. If we're required to give a receipt for a donation of $75, why are there two different sample receipts?

The two situations are similar, but different.  The first involves a situation where the donor receives something of value in return for her/his donation, the most typical example being an auction.  If the donation (or in the case of an auction, the purchase price) is $75 or more and the donor receives something of more than nominal value (worth more than $9.60) then the PTA  must notify the donor of the value of the item s/he received.  The second involves a straight donation of cash or property worth $250 or more and the donor does not receive anything of value in return, in which case the PTA must give a receipt or other acknowledgement of the donation.  This is a confusing area, but there are some examples that make it more clearly in IRS Publication 17, which describes various individual situations.  It’s available on the IRS website (go to Part 5, Chapter 24).  And of course providing either a written receipt or letter of acknowledgement for all donations is a best practice.  Not only does such a practice create a record of all financial transactions, it lets the donor know that the PTA is appreciative of any support for its programs

Friday, October 21, 2011

PTA and Taxes: Filing an Extension

I know that the deadline for filing our unit's federal tax return is November 15th, but I'm not sure we will have all the information we need. Is it possible to obtain an extension of time, and if so, how do I go about it?

You are correct that the deadline for nonprofits (which obviously includes all PTAs!) to file their annual federal tax return for the 2010-11 fiscal year is November 15th.  This is a postmark date, which means that the return (if filed by mail) must be postmarked no later than that date.  The good news is that the filing requirements have changed so that many PTAs that previously were required to file a paper return no longer have to do so.  If your PTA “normally” receives less than $50,000 in revenue, the PTA must file the 990-N electronic return. 

However PTAs with revenue “normally” between $50,001 and $200,000 must file either the 990EZ return or a full 990, and those whose “normal” revenues exceed $200,000 must file the 990.   To determine your PTA’s “normal” revenue, average the revenue for 2010-11 with the revenue for the two previous years, and remember than you can deduct the portion of your membership dues that you forward on to council, the State PTA and National PTA when making these calculations. 

Regardless of which form must be filed, the due date is November 15th--however if you do not believe that you can meet that deadline, you can file for an automatic three-month extension using IRS Form 8868.  New this year, you can both complete and file the application online for free.  Both the form and instructions are available here.  However the extension must be granted before the due date, so if you think you may need an extension, file it now!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Details For Taking Minutes

We have several questions about the minutes. First, how detailed should they be--should every comment be recorded and attributed to the speaker by name? Should the votes on a motion include names of who voted and how they voted? Finally, is it necessary to have the minutes of a previous meeting read aloud and have a formal motion to approve them?

The following is a summary from Roberts’ Rules of Order, which under Article 15 of the Uniform Bylaws is the parliamentary authority for issues not specifically addressed in the Bylaws or state law.  The minutes of a meeting—whether it’s a meeting of a committee, the Board or the general membership—become the official record of actions taken at the meeting once they have been approved.  Thus it’s important that any decisions be recorded accurately.  However recording each and every comment made during discussion is neither required nor is it a good practice, for several reasons.  First, it puts an unnecessary burden on the Secretary.  Second, people often say things in a discussion to draw out different points of view and including statements that may not accurately represent their own personal views.  Third, as we’ve all learned through email it’s difficult to capture the tone and flavor of an individual's comments in black and white, and there’s a significant risk that subsequent review of the minutes will generate a debate about what the person meant to say rather than the words s/he actually used, using time that could be put to a more productive endeavor. 

Similarly, the results of a vote on a motion should also be recorded, but not how individual participants voted.  There are two exceptions.  If someone abstained, particularly if the abstention is because of a real or perceived conflict of interest, that person’s name and the fact that s/he abstained should be recorded.  The other exception is when someone feels strongly that his/her dissenting viewpoint should be reflected in the record, that individual should be offered the opportunity to submit a dissenting statement to be added to the minutes prior to the time they are submitted for approval.  

As for approval of minutes of a prior meeting, if a draft of the minutes has been circulated in advance, or if written copies are available for everyone present, it is not necessary to read them aloud, although the president or chair may direct that this happen, and should do so if one or more persons present request that it be done.  A formal motion to approve the minutes is not necessary.  Rather after those present have had a chance to review the draft, the chair or president can ask if there are any corrections or additions to the minutes as presented.  Any noncontroversial changes—spelling errors, for example—can be made by consensus, and the chair or president can then announce that the minutes stand approved as presented or as amended, whichever is appropriate.  However, if there is disagreement as to the accuracy of one or more points in the minutes, a motion should be made spelling out how the draft minutes should be changed, and following discussion there should be a vote on whether to make the specific change(s) proposed in the motion.  Following all such motions there should be a motion to approve the minutes with any change(s) approved during the process. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sales Tax on Items for Re-Sell (ie., Spirit Wear)

We’re having our annual spirit wear sale, and the vendor insisted that we had to pay sales tax when we purchased the items to resell.  I later heard that we could have avoided paying sales tax because we’re a non-profit.  Is that true, and if so is there any way to get back the sales tax that we weren’t legally obligated to pay in the first place?
First, it’s not true that non-profits do not pay sales tax when they purchase taxable items for their own use.  Thus if you’re buying a notebook to keep a copy of your PTA’s legal documents, or tablecloths for a PTA dinner, you pay sales tax like anybody else.  However, when you buy items to resell, such as the spirit wear you mentioned in your question, you can avoid paying the sales tax by obtaining a Reseller’s Permit from the Washington Department of Revenue.  The permit is easy to obtain—just click here and follow the directions.  And there’s more good news—you can also obtain a refund of the tax you paid from the Department of Revenue.  You can learn more about state tax laws and how they apply to PTAs by attending one of the many upcoming PTA & the Law workshops being held this month, and by checking out the Frequently Asked Questions available on the Leadership Resources section of the WSPTA website.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

What to do if your elected officers resign?

Two of our four officers have submitted their resignations  unexpectedly, each for perfectly understandable personal reasons.  How do we go about replacing them?

First, thanks for hanging in there during a difficult period.  Now to answer your question, under Article 6, Section 5(e) of the Uniform Bylaws, vacancies in an office can be filled by appointment by the executive committee, and the person appointed can serve until the next general membership meeting, at which time nominations should be taken from the floor and an election held.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Differences in Money Matters: WSPTA and National PTA

We received our Official Back to School Kit from National PTA and I noticed a significant difference between the National version of Money Matters and the one that is included in the Washington State PTA Leadership Kit.  The issue has to do with accounting for that portion of membership service fees that are collected from members and then sent on as council, state or national portion of the fees.  The National PTA book says that those fees should never be included in the PTA’s income, but the Washington State Money Matters says just the opposite, i.e. that the council, state and national fees should be included as income in the PTA’s accounting system.  I don’t understand why Washington state would be different from what National PTA is telling us.
The reason Washington State is different is that local units are required by state law to include membership service fees in their income for purposes of the state Charitable Solicitations Act, RCW 19.09.  The folks at National PTA are not, of course, aware of the various laws applicable in the 50 states, and their advice appears to be based on federal tax laws.  It’s true that the portion of fees sent on to council, state or national are not included in computing income when your PTA completes its 990N, 990EZ or 990 form next month.  However Washington PTAs must include all fees received from members in determining whether they have to file under the state Charitable Solicitation Act, and that’s why Washington State PTA advises that all fees – including the portion that is sent on to council, state or National PTA -- be recorded as income on the PTA’s books.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guidelines for General Membership Meetings

We're trying to establish our general membership meeting schedule for the year--are there any rules or guidelines we should be following?

Meetings are governed by Article 5, Section 10 of the Uniform Bylaws, available online here, and by your local unit’s standing rules, so start there.  Some local units adopt a meeting schedule in the spring for the following year, whereas others don’t do so until the fall, but whenever the regular meeting schedule is established, notice should be sent to all members.  Even if the meeting schedule is already set, however, a special meeting of the general membership can be called by the President, a majority of the Board or by 5% of the membership.  Of course you’ll also want to take into account factors such as availability of a meeting location, a time that is convenient to members (including the teacher-members), and the nature of the business to be transacted at the meeting.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Our local unit adopted the 2011-12 budget last spring, but over the summer some things have changed that weren’t anticipated when the budget adopted.  Are we stuck with the budget or can we ask our membership to approve some amendments?  
Yes.  The budget is developed as a projection based on the best available information at the time.  However since the members adopted the budget they can also amend it, and when I say “members” I mean the membership as a whole, not necessarily those individual members who were present when the budget was adopted.  One further note, you may want to consider also amending the local unit’s standing rules to allow the Board some flexibility to reallocate funds during the year, just in case some need arises when it’s not possible to call a meeting of the entire membership.

Friday, August 19, 2011

We have completed our financial review and decided that we might as well file our federal informational tax return at the same time.  I understand that the income levels that determined which form we file (990N, 990EZ, or 990) have changed but I’m still unclear on a couple of points.  Our revenue in previous years has generally been below $50,000, but last year one of our fundraisers was more successful than expected (Yeah!) and our revenue was slightly more than $51,000.  Does that mean we still have to file a 990EZ? 
What a great idea to file your tax return when you have all the information in front of you from the financial review—getting it completed and filed now means you won’t have to worry about meeting the November 15th deadline!  You are also correct about the revenue levels changing. 

Here are the revised levels for the 2010-11 fiscal year:
  • Revenue less than $50,000, file the 990N
  • Revenue $50,000 to $200,000, file the 990EZ
  • Revenue more than $200,000, file the 990.

Now to answer your questions, keep a couple of things in mind.  First, remember that when you compute your PTA’s revenue for the purpose of the IRS filing, you can deduct that portion of your dues that is forwarded to your council, the state and National PTA.  Second, the form that should be used is based on the PTA’s ‘normal’ level of revenue, not necessarily the actual income for the particular year.  To determine the ‘normal’ level you average the year in question plus the previous two years.  Thus to determine the appropriate form for 2010-11, you would average the revenue for 2008-9, 2009-10 and 2010-11.  If the average for all three is less than $50,000 your PTA can file the 990N electronic postcard; if the average is higher, your PTA should file the 990 EZ for the 2010-11 fiscal year, even though your revenue for that year may have been slightly more than $50,000.  Finally remember even if your PTA is eligible to file the 990N, you have the option of filing a 990EZ, but heed the IRS’ caution here.  

Friday, August 12, 2011

Who can be on a financial review committee?

We are getting ready to conduct our annual Financial Review, and both the outgoing and incoming treasurer have expressed a willingness to serve on the Financial Review Committee.   According to the Money Matters section of the Leadership Packet (page 16), the outgoing treasurer is “not a member of the financial review committee [but] a resource to the committee [who] is normally not present when the financial review committee meets, but should be available by phone to answer questions.”  However, having the outgoing treasurer present would seem to expedite the process because she is very familiar with the financial records, and the incoming treasurer should start getting familiar with the records.   Why can’t they both be members of the committee? 

Under the Uniform Bylaws, no one who had signing authority on the PTA’s account(s) can be a member of the Financial Review Committee.  Assuming the incoming Treasurer was not a signer on the account during the past year, appointing that person to the Committee is a very good idea for the reason you mentioned.  The purpose of the financial review is to provide an independent review of the PTA’s financial records, which can only take place in a setting where the committee members will not feel reluctant to ask what may be difficult questions.  That’s why WSPTA recommends that the outgoing Treasurer not be present, but be available to answer questions. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Can a PTA leader endorse a local candidate?

I am well-known in my community as a leader in the PTA, and I’ve been asked to endorse a candidate who is running for the school board.  I would like to support this candidate, but I know that PTA is not supposed to get involved in partisan campaigns, but I’m not sure if that extends to nonpartisan offices such as school board.  What are the rules? 
You are correct that PTAs do not endorse candidates for public office, and that prohibition applies regardless of whether the race is partisan or nonpartisan.  This prohibition is in the Uniform Bylaws (Article 2, Section 1(a)) and also a requirement to maintain tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  While individuals who are PTA leaders are not prohibited from exercising their personal rights to be involved in the election process, they should take pains to make sure that such participation does not imply support from the PTA rather than from just the individual.  This would be particularly true in the situation you describe, i.e. the fact that you are well known to be a PTA leader may make it difficult for the average voter to distinguish you as an individual from you as a spokesperson for the PTA.  One step you can take is to not include your PTA affiliation in any printed material that includes your endorsement, or if reference to your PTA affiliation is necessary for identification purposes (“Which Mary Smith is it who has endorsed Candidate Jones?”).  If so the reference should include a statement that the PTA affiliation is for identification purposes, and does not imply endorsement by the PTA itself.  One final consideration, assuming you are in a leadership position with the PTA, is the impact of an endorsement of a candidate on your ability to be effective as a PTA leader if your candidate doesn’t win the election.  Unlike the endorsement question, this one doesn’t have a hard-and-fast rule, but you should definitely consider this aspect and perhaps talk to the others on your PTA’s board to get their perspective before making a final decision.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Appointing a Financial Review Committee

I am the newly elected President of my local unit, and I have discovered that my predecessor did not appoint a financial review committee.  Should I ask him to do so now?  Also, from my quick look at the records, it appears that some items are missing—what should I do about those.     
Because you are now the President of your unit you are the person authorized to appoint a financial review committee.  Once you have made the appointment, the review committee should be given the financial records that you have, and the committee should note in its report what items, if any, are in fact missing.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of incomplete documentation, but other times the absence of information to support an expenditure could indicate a more serious issue, so until the review has been completed and the report submitted it’s difficult to advise what other steps—if any—you should take.  The review committee’s reports should include recommendations about how to make sure the unit’s financial records are complete going forward.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Treasurer Preparing For Next Year


I am the newly elected Treasure of my local unit, and I’ve received the check book and other financial records from my predecessor.  The financial review has been completed and everything was in order.  Fortunately all of our bills have been paid and we’re not planning on receiving any funds until late August.  Is there anything I need to do in the meantime to get ready for next year?  

Thanks for your willingness to step up to this important leadership position, and congratulations on getting off to what looks like a great start.  This time of slower activity is an opportunity to make sure the procedures are in place for the coming year.  For example, do you have at least 3 signers on the bank account, so that you’re able to have two signatures even when one of them is out of town?  Also, has your Executive Committee identified a non-signer board member to review the bank statement each month and then pass it along to you?  Even though the Federal income tax return (990, 990EZ or 990N) isn’t due until November 15th, you can file it early—and the same for your unit’s annual report to the Charities Program at the Washington Secretary of State’s Office, which isn’t due until next May 31st.  And of course don’t forget that even though there’s little or even no activity during July and August, you need to prepare and submit a financial report for those months, just the same as for the months when there’s a lot more going on.  Finally, make plans to attend your region’s Fall Conference and PTA and the Law workshops where you will receive a lot of useful information to help you be successful in this important role.  Keep checking your region’s web page on the WSPTA website for updated information about the scheduling of these events.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What to do When an Elected Officer Resigns

We elected officers last spring, but now one has had to resign because of a job transfer. Can the Executive Committee appoint a replacement?

Article 5, Section 6 (e) of the Uniform Bylaws covers this: If a vacancy occurs in an office, the executive committee may fill the vacancy until the next general membership meeting at which time nominations shall be made from the floor with the consent of the nominee. A quorum being present, a majority of all votes cast is necessary to elect. . . .  

So to answer your question, the Executive Committee makes an interim appointment to fill the vacancy, and then there is an election—including the nominations from the floor—at your PTA’s next general membership meeting.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Updating an Annual Review

When I filed our annual corporation renewal with the Washington Secretary of State’s office in February, I noticed that there was a place to list the officers.  I updated the information then, but of course now our officers are changing—should I file another renewal? 

Yes.  The law requires that any nonprofit corporation file an annual report during the month of the anniversary of its incorporation.  That report is required regardless of whether anything has changed since the preceding year’s report.  In addition, however, you should also update the annual report any time during the year that there’s a change in any of the required information, which includes a change in the officers.  The annual report can be filed online or you can download the form and file it by mail—either way there’s a $10.00 fee.  More information and a link to the applicable forms can be found on the Secretary of State’s website here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Updating a Corporation Renewal With New Officers

When I filed our annual corporation renewal with the Washington Secretary of State’s office in February, I noticed that there was a  place to list the officers.  I updated the information then, but of course now our officers are changing—should I file another renewal? 

Yes.  The law requires that any nonprofit corporation file an annual report during the month of the anniversary of its incorporation.  That report is required regardless of whether anything has changed since the  preceding year’s report.  In addition, however, you should also update the annual report any time during the year that there’s a change in any of the required information, which includes a change in the officers.  The annual report can be filed online or you can download the form and file it by mail—either way there’s a $10.00 fee.  More information and a link to the applicable forms can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Can a unit promote a local business that offers a discount to PTA members?

A local business is offering a discount to our members as a way for us to attract members and for them to attract new customers.  However I thought that PTA was supposed to be noncommercial and not endorse individual businesses.  Can our PTA agree to promote the discount to our members without violating those requirements?

You are correct that Article 2, Section 1(h) of the Uniform Bylaws states that “[t]he organization or members in their official capacities shall not endorse a commercial entity or engage in activities not related to promoting of the purposes of the organization.” 

However in the situation you describe the discount would benefit members and encourage others to join the PTA, so promoting the discount to your members would be “related to promoting the purposes” of your PTA and not be in violation of the Uniform Bylaws. 

Having said that, there are several factors you may want to consider. 
-- First, is the product or service being offered one that is aligned with PTA’s purposes?  For example, promoting a healthy food product or activity for kids clearly would be, while an oil change, probably not so much, and a discount on dangerous or harmful products is probably something that your PTA would not want to be associated with.  These are business judgments that your PTA’s board of directors would have to make weighing the benefit to the PTA and the membership as well as the needs and circumstances served by your PTA. 

-- Second, there may be other businesses – including some  owned by your members –that might welcome a similar opportunity.  While you don’t have to try to contact every business in town, you may want to put the  word out generally before accepting the first opportunity that presents itself.  Finally you may want to include a statement to the effect that the offer is being made available to your members as a convenience to them, but that if they choose to take advantage of it the business relationship is strictly between them and the business.

Collecting Sales Tax on Weekly Cookie/Popcorn Sales

Our PTA has a cookie sale every week and sells other snacks (candy and popcorn) during sporting events.  We also sell spirit wear (tee shirts and sweat shirts with the school logo) during the fall.   Should we be collecting sales tax on these sales?

As long as the spirit wear sale is for a defined, limited period, it would be considered a periodic fundraising event, and sales at such events are not subject to the sales tax.  Sales at a “regular place of business” are taxable, but certain food items are themselves exempt from sales tax.  Because the cookie sales occur on a regular schedule, they are considered to be a “regular place of business” but bakery items such as cookies are exempt from the sales tax, so the answer there is also no. 

The sales at sporting events would also probably be considered a “regular place of business” because they occur repeatedly throughout the school year, but some items (such as candy and fresh fruit) are exempt, and other items (such as popped popcorn) are not exempt.   To find out whether specific items are subject to the sales tax, you can contact the Department of Revenue’s Telephone Information Center at 1-800-647-7706.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What consitutes a quorum?

Our local unit has thirteen positions on the Board of Directors, but only ten of them are currently filled, with some board members doing double duty until we fill the other two positions.   I know that a majority of the Board must be present at our Board meetings to have a quorum to do business, but I’m not sure whether it’s a majority of the positions or a majority of the actual people currently on the Board. 

You are correct that under Article 5, Section 11(c) of the Uniform Bylaws, “(c) A majority of those currently serving on the board shall constitute a quorum.”  Because there are currently 10 people actually serving on the Board, a majority of six people must be present to constitute a quorum.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Can we have a multi-year contact (ie., yearbook)?

I understand that the Board of a local unit or council cannot make an obligation that extends beyond  the current fiscal year, because next year’s Board may want to do something different.  But what if you have an opportunity to save a lot of money by engaging in a multi-year contract, such as contracting for website hosting or a multi-year contract for production of a yearbook

You are correct that the Uniform Bylaws do place limits on a Board of Directors’ authority to commit the PTA or Council beyond the current fiscal year, but that limitation does not apply to the membership.   

Article 5, Section 2(b) of the Uniform Bylaws reads as follows: A PTA/PTSA local unit shall not enter into any financial obligations extending beyond the fiscal year (July 1 – June 30) except as approved by the general membership. The organization shall operate in a fiscally responsible and appropriate manner. (emphasis added)

Given this language the answer is to take the “good deal” to the general membership for approval.  If there’s a time limit that precludes a prior approval by vote of the general membership (e.g. the vendor says “to get this reduced rate you have to sign today”), I’d recommend the officers add “subject to approval of general membership” to their signature, and then take it to the general membership at the next opportunity.  If it’s really a good deal, there is little risk that the general membership will not approve it, and if the vendor isn’t willing to accept this condition, then maybe it’s not such a good deal after all.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Electing New Members to Executive Positions

There seems to be a lot of questions swirling about whether or not a person needs to be a PTA member of our unit to be elected into an executive board position.  One of the amendments to the Uniform Bylaws adopted at the 2011 Convention amended Article 5 Section 3(g) so it now reads as follows: To be elected to office a person must be a member of a PTA unit, but not necessarily the unit being elected to, at least thirty (30) days preceding the election, except as specified in Article 5, Section 3 (e) for newly formed local units and councils.  If elected officers are not currently members of our PTA, then 
        1.  How can we get them added to our bank account on July 1st?  
        2.  How will they be covered under our unit’s liability insurance until they become members?
        3.  How will our membership chair add them as officers in the WSPTA database?

It is correct that a person is eligible to be elected if s/he has been a member of any PTA for at least 30 days prior to the election.  That has long been the interpretation of this section of the Bylaws but the newly added language makes it clear.  Of course the person(s) so elected always have the option of joining your unit now and then again after July 1st, but that’s not necessary.  To answer your specific questions:

(1)    As long as the results of the election are in the copy of the minutes that is provided to the financial institution where the PTA’s account is held, there should not be a problem with having his/her signature added to the account on or after July 1st, when the term officially begins.  

(2)    The PTA’s liability Insurance coverage applies to anyone who is participating in an event on behalf of the PTA, not just to members, so again s/he should be covered.  Any questions along those lines can be addressed to AIM. 

(3)    The newly elected officer should not be put into the WSPTA member database as an incoming officer; instead email the information to to enter the information manually after the database for the 2011-12 fiscal year has been set up, which will happen shortly after July 1st.  The newly elected officer(s) can pay the membership service fee for your unit for next year’s membership whenever it’s convenient, although that should probably wait until after the start of the new fiscal year as well. Your 2011-12 membership chair should be careful not to enter the person’s name a second time when entering next year’s members.    

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Specifics About Cards, Signatures and Online Banking

At the Convention, Article 6 Council, Section 7 Duties of Officers, (a) General was amended by adding the following subsection: (3)WSPTA requires two (2) signatures on every check. Use of a PTA debit card, credit card, ATM card and online banking to disburse PTA funds is not permitted. Does this preclude using an electronic payment process where action by two separate individuals is necessary to authorize a payment?

The two signature requirement has been in the Bylaws for a very long time and is intended to minimize the risk of one person unilaterally spending PTA funds.  This is similar to the recommended practice for businesses that divides responsibilities among employees so that no one of them can divert funds without another person’s complicity.  I believe the Bylaw amendment was intended to clarify that the two signature requirement applies in the era of electronic banking.  Some banks offer electronic payment systems that require authorization from two different individuals before a payment is made, and there are also commercial firms that offer a similar system that can be used with any bank account.  Because each payment requires action by two different people—in effect two electronic signatures—I believe use of such a system is consistent with the intent, if not the letter, of the Bylaw and the recent amendment.  Of course, other precautions such as requiring the two signatures be from different households, etc. would still apply.  One word of caution:  such systems are primarily intended with for-profit businesses in mind, and often have a cost involved.  Accordingly, any PTA contemplating use of such a system will have to make a business judgment as to whether the convenience of not having to obtain two written signatures justifies the additional costs involved.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Paying Sales Tax on Resell Items

I attended a PTA & the Law workshop and learned that PTAs do not have to pay sales tax on items that they purchase to resell.  Earlier this year we held a spirit wear sale at our school, and paid sales tax when we purchased the items we sold.  Is there any way to get a refund on the sales tax? 

Yes.  You can apply to the Department of Revenue for a refund of tax paid on items that were resold, by completing the application and sending it to the Department.  If your PTA wants to avoid paying sales tax on items for resale in the future, you should apply for a Reseller’s Permit, which you can do either online or via a paper application.  More information is available here.

Are Board Meetings Open to Members?

Is there a rule that PTA Board meetings be open to members?  

There is no legal requirement or anything in the WSPTA Uniform Bylaws requiring that PTA Board meetings be open to members.  Anyone who has been a member for at least three months has the right under state law to review and obtain (at their expense) copies of minutes of board of directors’ meetings, and a local unit could include such a provision in its standing rules.  (The section of the WSPTA Uniform Bylaws governing the WSPTA Board of Directors was amended in 2009 to require that there be a minimum of ten seats available at WSPTA Board meetings for members to observe the meeting.  But that only applies at the state level.)  While opening the board meeting to members who want to observe is not required, you might to do so anyway to avoid creating the perception that the Board has something to hide.  Of course if someone is disruptive, they can be asked to leave and/or the meeting can be moved to a different location.  Also, even if the meeting were to be open to members, that would not give them the right to participate in board discussions.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Charitable Solicitations Renewal

I saw the notice on the side about filing with the Charities Division of the Secretary of State’s office—how do I know whether our  PTA is required to register?  Also, if we are already registered, how do I  file the annual update?

Any nonprofit that receives more than $25,000 in revenue from public contributions (including dues, receipts at fund-raisers, and donations) is required to register with the Charities Division of the Secretary of State’s Office, and file an annual report that must be received by the Secretary of State's Office no later than May 31st following the end of the fiscal year.  More information and the necessary forms are available online at the Secretary of State’s website.  If you have any questions or need assistance from our office, please contact Tatia Vasbinder either at 253-565-2153 or  1-800-562-3804.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sharing Executive Positions

Our PTA’s standing rules do not allow for  sharing of positions (“co-president,” “co-treasurer” etc)” or, but the job of treasurer has become so complex that we’re having trouble finding one person willing to take on the job.  What would we need to do to allow for co-treasurers?  Are there any limitations on who can share the positions—for example could a husband and wife share the position?   

Generally speaking, there is nothing in the Bylaws that allow sharing positions, but there is also nothing specifically prohibiting it.  If your unit’s standing rules don’t allow sharing of positions, then the first step would be a vote of your membership to amend the standing rules, and the amendment should indicate whether each person will have a separate vote on the Board of Directors or whether the vote for the position will also be shared.  In this case, perhaps a better option would be to set up separate positions – one being a treasurer (responsible for monthly reports and tax filings) and the other being a bookkeeper (responsible for day-to-day activities, keeping track of check writing, bank deposits, and reimbursement requests).  

With respect to limitations, the Uniform Bylaws specifically provide that “In the event two (2) or more members of the same household hold offices in the same local unit or council, only one (1) shall co-sign financial matters.”  Article 5, Sec. 7 (a)(3).   Thus in the example you give, the husband and wife could be co-treasurer, but only one of them could be a signer on the bank account under this Bylaw provision.  In addition, whether it’s spouses or other relatives sharing the position, or a single person filling it, you want to make sure that there’s an unrelated person who is not a signer on any of the accounts who is charged with reviewing and signing the monthly bank statement(s) (original preferred but a copy acceptable) and looking at transaction with an eye to identifying anything that looks irregular.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Does the Nominating Committee have to be unanimous?

Our PTA’s Nominating Committee is divided, with two of us  favoring one candidate and the third member favoring another.  Does the Nominating Committee’s decision have to be unanimous?  Also, if there is more than one candidate—either nominated by the committee or because someone  runs from the floor—should the candidates vote?  What about the President  who is presiding over the election.

The Nominating Committee’s decision is made by a majority vote—it does not require complete agreement by all members.  Having said that, keep in mind that the Nominating Committee is not limited to only one candidate for a position.  While having a contested election can sometimes
feel awkward in a group made up mostly of neighbors and friends, it’s often healthy for the membership to have different perspectives and leadership styles  from which to choose.  When there’s a contested election, it should be  conducted by secret written ballot.  The President or other person chairing the election meeting should appoint a Teller’s Committee to count the ballots and report the results.  All members present—including the candidates and the President—are entitled to cast a vote. 

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Can our PTA raise funds for a charity?

The students in our school have read about the earthquake, tsunami and  nuclear reactor accident in Japan and want to raise funds to help children who have been displaced or lost their families in this tragedy. Is this something our PTSA can support, and what pitfalls should we be concerned about?

First, a PTA can certainly inform its members of fundraising activities that  other persons or organizations are conducting. Second, if the PTA wants to conduct a fund-raising activity on its own, or use the PTA account to transfer funds that others have collected, keep in mind that any such action must be (1) consistent with the PTA’s mission, standing rules, and adopted budget; and (2) consistent with the 1023 or 1024 form it submitted to the Internal Revenue Service. Third, keep in mind that it’s an unfortunate truth that there are those who may try to take advantage of people’s desire to help for their own enrichment.

After the earthquake in Haiti in January of 2010, National PTA published a list of recommended charities to which individuals can safely contribute. That list is still posted here and while some of the charities listed there are specific toHaiti, others also support relief efforts worldwide, including Japan. Also, you may want to read or listen to this report (“How to Make Your Donations Count) from National Public Radio, which cautions against making contributions for specific purposes, rather than to support relief organizations generally, allowing them to allocate the funds where the needs are  greater. (Ask anyone who has attended PTA & the Law recently about the pitfalls of restricted and designated funds).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Filing Annual Reports

I know our PTA’s annual report will be due over the summer, and I want to be sure it’s not overlooked during the transition.  Can I file it early?  

Every nonprofit corporation must file its annual report to the Washington Secretary of State’s office no later than the last day of the month during which the nonprofit was originally chartered.  For example, if your PTA was chartered in July, your 2011 report will be due no later than July 31st.  According to the Secretary of State’s office, its online  The online renewal system will accept annual report filings up to 60 days from the date of expiration.  Therefore you can file as early as June 1st; however if you file earlier than that date, the system will treat your report as an update, and you will still need to file an annual report no later than July 31st.

Friday, March 4, 2011

We cannot find someone to accept a nominaton!

I’m chairing the Nominating Committee for my local unit, and we have been unable to find a candidate willing to stand for election as Treasurer.  What should we do? 

Based on Article 5, Section 6 of the Uniform Bylaws the Nominating Committee should continue seeking a candidate or candidates until its report is due, and if there is no candidate found then the report should so indicate.  At the general meeting at which the Nominating Committee’s report is read, the President should open the floor for nominations for Treasurer in the same way as the other positions being elected.  If no candidate comes forward at that meeting, the same opportunity should be presented at any further general membership meetings that occur before July 1st.  If no one has been elected to be treasurer by July 1st, the current treasurer stays in the position until the new Executive Committee appoints someone to serve in that position.  If the Executive Committee does appoint someone, the appointment is until the next general membership meeting, at which time there should be another opportunity for nominations from the floor. 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Do we have to provide board meeting minutes?


According to Robert’s Rules of Order, minutes of our PTA’s board or committee meetings are “accessible to members of the boards or committees but no others.”  A member of our PTA has requested to see copies of our Board minutes—do we have to provide them?  

Assuming that the member joined more than three months ago, the answer is yes.  While you have correctly quoted Robert’s Rules, Washington state law, specifically Revised Code of Washington § 24.03.135, requires that certain records must be “ open at any reasonable time to inspection by any member of more than three months standing.”   The statute also states the member making the request must bear the costs of copying the records that he or she wants copied.  State law prevails over Robert’s Rules so yes, requests such as this must be granted.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Childcare at Meetings

We're thinking about offering childcare at our meetings.  What do we need to know?  And can we pay these folks?

It's a great idea to offer childcare at your meetings - especially to help those parents who wouldn't be able to attend your meetings without it.  However, if you use professional childcare, you should execute a contract with them, ensuring they have a business license and are covered by their own insurance.  Using volunteers is an acceptable alternative, and often the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and YMCA/YWCA provide programs for children and are just a couple of organizations that you can partner with.  Whatever the case, you need to have at least one PTA member present to help oversee this activity.  However, please note that if you pay your volunteers, you void your insurance coverage- so please avoid that.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Safety of Retaining Copies of Personal Checks

I read in Money Matters that PTA treasurer should retain copies of all checks that they deposit.  These checks often have a lot of personal information on them name, address, license number and bank account numbers.  Isn’t there a risk that this information will fall into the wrong hand and be used inappropriately? 
We realized after publishing Money Matters that our advice on this issue was incomplete.  Keeping the checks for a while gives an accountability trail in case someone claims to have paid but there’s no record of payment.  It also is a way of reconciling receipts and deposits.  Most of the personal information (names, addresses, etc.) are also in the membership records and for many people also in other public records such as the phone book.  The exception of course is individual’s check routing and account numbers that are printed on the lower part of the check.   We recommend that either (1) the checks be copied in a way that obscures those numbers or (2) the numbers be marked out.  Once the financial review for the year has been concluded the copies should be destroyed.  We will include this advice in future editions of Money Matters.  Finally, of course all PTA records containing personal information should be handled carefully so as not to be subject to inappropriate disclosure.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Can we have one person do a mid-year review?

Can our PTA do a mid-year review by having one person verify the books since it’s just mid-year?   Of course at the end of the fiscal year in June we’ll have a three person Financial Review Committee do the formal end-of-year review. 

The need to conduct a Financial Review can occur at any time—for example, if there’s a change of treasurer, or a question arises during the year.  Thus the best practice is to have a Financial Review Committee appointed to serve through the year, and have that committee conduct a full financial review mid-year.  Having one person review the books isn’t as effective as a full blown Financial Review.  More information on conducting a Financial Review is in the Money Matters section of the Leadership Packet you received last fall.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Sales Tax For Re-Sell

I attended a PTA & the Law workshop and learned that PTAs  do not have to pay sales tax on items that they purchase to resell.   Earlier this year we held a spirit wear sale at our school, and paid sales tax when we purchased the items we sold.  Is there any way to get a refund on the sales tax?

Yes.  You can apply to the Department of Revenue for a refund of tax paid on items that were resold, by completing the application and  sending it to the Department.  If your PTA wants to avoid paying sales tax  on items for resale in the future, you should apply for a Reseller’s Permit, which you can do either online or via a paper application.