PTO Today Q&A

Question: Being 'charged' for photocopies

Our school has just introduced a charge on students who use the photocopiers to curb the excessive waste, by introducing a card system. The PTO was informed that there is also a card for the Committee to collect, which effectively means that we are going to be charged to make photocopies at the school. The photocopies we make are exclusively fliers to parents to inform them about activities and events organised to raise funds for the school. Can other PTO members please tell me whether this is usual practice?


Asked by Michi

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Answers:

Community Advice

firefighter464 writes:
If you are a separate 501c(3), you are an entirely separate entity from the school, whether or not you benefit the school or distribute your fliers at the school. Would you just walk into another place of business and use their copier for free? (Sure, I know some office employees who think nothing of taking post-it notes, pens, making copies etc at their place of work, but it is in truth, stealing. If you were the business owner you'd see it that way.) I'm not saying it is that negative, just that it is more commonplace nowadays with budgets so tight in this economy for managers (in this case school officials) to tighten up where you see money leaking. It's difficult to admit, but for the most part it seems that you are not unusual in viewing yourself as part of the school when it benefits you and separate from the school in a situation when it might not--like decisions, expenditures, control, liability, etc. I notice you typed you raise money 'for the school' Is that accurate? Or do you raise money for PTO which in turn benefits the school? I think it all depends upon the structure of your organization. But if you can see the school's viewpoint, you shouldn't feel bad about paying the fee. Do you want school $ to go to copiers or the kids?


Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
The school does have the right to set its own policy regarding the copier, but I see your point that it does seem unfair because all your materials are strictly to inform families about school events. It's a tough one. Is it possible for your group to meet and discuss the issue with the administration to see if there is any compromise to be made? If not, are there steps you could take to reduce the amount of copying you do? For example, many PTOs do double-side copies and use family lists instead of student lists when doing flyers. That will at least cut back on costs by reducing the number of copies. Also, you might do some notices by email when it makes sense as a way to get around copying expenses.


Community Advice

Michi writes:
Dear Rose C and Firefighter 464; thank you both for your replies. In reply to Rose C first; as a committee we have already made huge efforts to cut out hard copies by using email. All members of the school community are registered on the system so everyone should receive our announcements, but we still receive complaints from parents who say that they didn't know (I know, I know... they should read their emails!!). Family lists are a good idea to reduce the amount of photocopies. As for trying to reach a compromise, there are so many cost cutting, and fee increasing measures being taken at the moment that I feel it isn't the right climate to attempt a discussion in compromisation. In answer to Firefighter464, yes, we are a seperate entity. I see your point about distinguishing whether the funds are raised for the PTO or for the school; All the funds we raise are used to purchase items for the school, or donated towards a particular project that the school is working on, so I'm not sure what the difference really is. My objective is to cooperate with the school (even in deciding where to channel funds), but am I wrong to expect the co-operation to be both ways? Even before the introduction of this new photocopying procedure, we never had 'free rein' with the photocopier and always left any document with the office for approval first (there was no 'stealing' or abuse with photocopying taking place at any point when it came to PTO copies).


Community Advice

firefighter464 writes:
Rose C that tip about family list (as opposed to student list) is GREAT! Hope others take note! Michi: What is the total annual cost, do you think for this PTO copying? Can you afford it? If so, although you feel it is a bit of non-cooperative, just adjust your budget. (Like I advise my kids, you can only control what you can do or your reaction to what others do, you can't make someone else do what you want them to do, no matter how right/wrong you see it.) For me, as a PTO volunteer for years, on my own I chose to make 1/2 page color printed flyers because I felt they would grab more attention. I did this on my home computer on my own dime--paper and ink, never asked for or was offered any reimbursement. I never batted an eyelash. I guess it's all about what is your goal and what can your budget afford?


Community Advice

Michi writes:
Hi firefighter464. Thanks again. I agree that our best way forward, in terms of maintaining peace with the Admin, and also acknowledging rising school expenses, is just for the PTO to fund its own photocopies. Similar to you, I run several copies for the inner committees at my own expense, but it would run into several hundreds to do when preparing fliers for the whole student / family base. The cost has to be paid, so I guess it will just have to become an administration cost of the PTO. Whether we pay it or the school does, it's still going to be a cost, and going to decrease the overall profit somewhere. My last resort is to see whether there are any parents with printing connections who might be willing to sponsor us. We've had this in the past, but it died a natural death when the child finished school.


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