Question: Legally dealing with PTO due to closing of school

One of your schools is closing in our district and being incorporated into another. This has caused so many issues. One issue is what to do with the PTO at the school that is closing? Some have been talking that the PTO of the school that is closing should just be dissolved (without a member vote) and the current PTO of the other school be considered the PTO at that school since the name of the PTO is the same as the school name. It is known that one of the PTO’s has current bylaws in place, valid EIN (not federal tax exempt) and valid state TIN. It is unknown if the other PTO has any of this stuff and when asked this information is aggressively not provided. What are the suggestions on how to deal with this? There is a lot of head butting involved in this situation. We have much disagreement about who should make the decision. Some think it should be Administration. Some say it should just be the current officers. Some say it should be discussed and voted on by all the members involved. How do you dissolve a PTO legally? Who has the right to make that decision? Can the funds left in one PTO that is a known legal non-profit organization be handed over to another if it is unknown if it is or is not legal even if it is against the bylaws of the one handing it over? Does the administration have the right to force this?

Asked by Anonymous



Advice from PTO Today

Craig writes:
You have a lot of valid questions about the nuts and bolts of a merger. The number one thing to make this all work, however, is to stop thinking about two PTOs from different schools and start thinking about how together you can create one strong PTO for the school that all of your kids will be attending next year.

The structure you start from (EIN, etc.) doesn't matter much in the long run. As far as bylaws, you should form a bylaws committee and write bylaws that fit the new group. Think of this as an opportunity: You have talented leaders and volunteers in each existing group, and good ideas in each group. You have more resources, in that sense, than the two separate groups, so you have the opportunity to accomplish a lot.

The challenge is to bring those together to form one even stronger whole. It's hard because it involves a lot of communication and compromise. But you'll be much better off if you think of this as building a great PTO from the ground up rather than one group or the other being in charge.

Get some of the leaders from both groups together for coffee and brainstorm some of the things you might accomplish. It's important to think forward -- what can we do in the new situation -- rather than backward.

As far as the money, you should strongly consider having your new group apply for tax-exempt status from the IRS. In that case, you will be able to donate the money to the new group. If not, technically you would be better off donating it to the school.

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