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.