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State ‘Booster Club Act’ rules discussed

In the realm of lending monetary support to a favorite school within the Knox County system, supporters’ mode of fund-raising has been modified by state law.

Become a School Support Organization or simply be a small band of parent volunteers?

Such were the questions addressed to state experts and local school officials about the law during a meeting in Bearden High School auditorium Tuesday evening, Aug. 19.

Tennessee General Assembly’s School Support Organization Financial Accountability Act of 2007, amended 2008, is intended to force greater accountability for non-governmental booster clubs, foundations, PTAs, PTOs, PTSAs or other groups — all now classified as SSOs.

All SSOs now have to file a charter, maintain bylaws and officers, receive specific permission from school systems officials before raising money and keep records for at least four years as key provisions.

One key fund-raising exception are those groups that turn over funds raised to school bookkeeping through a school employee. Such outside groups are technically labeled “parent volunteers.”

In Knox County, all fund-raising for schools now starts with filling out a form and submitting it to the principal. That form can be found at Knox County Schools Web site:

From there it’s Roger Underwood, Knox County supervisor of accounts payable, who signs off on all fund-raisers “at the school level. … It has to come downtown,” said Russ Oaks, Knox County Schools spokesman.


For “parent volunteers” fund-raising to buy a mower for the football team, for example, that purpose must be made clear to the school employee contact prior to the fundraiser. Other-wise, the funds are considered of general use for the football team “to be spent as the coach sees fit,” said state official Chad Jackson, comptroller of the treasury, Division of Multiple Audit.

Oaks said any individual school purchase of $10,000 or more “must be approved by the Knox County Board of Education.”

L. Rene Brison, investigative audit manager with the State of Tennessee, said parent volunteers could, for example, “run a carnival,” or be in charge of any fund-raising. … It’s just that the school sponsor has to be in the group, in the room that’s collecting the money and sign off on it and make sure it’s turned over to the [school] bookkeeper.”

However, Brison said, “If you do fundraisers outside of the school in the school’s name and you’re raising money for a group within the school, then you need to be an approved School Support Organization.”

SSOs do not have to surrender funds to the principal unless the given board of education stipulates otherwise, which Knox County does not.

Other fund-raising limitations and clarifications:

• A “school representative” cannot act as a treasurer or bookkeeper for an SSO for which they have a connection; no football coach, for example, can be treasurer of the football booster club; the principal cannot sign checks for any booster club, PTA or PTO.

However, some crossover is acceptable: for example, the band director could be the treasurer of the football booster club; an English teacher could be treasurer and sign checks for the basketball booster club.

• Any school official at a given high school can sell items in a fund-raiser for any group and can act as a volunteer.

“We’ve had a problem with [school officials] being nervous … volunteering in fund-raisers,” Jackson said, warning that coaches, for example, shouldn’t collect money from other fund-raisers as a so-called “middle man” before turning money over — only collect from those they are directly soliciting.


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