Question: Bylaws and budgets

I have been part of a PTO that operates under the schools EIN. In the 3 years I have been part of it actively, I have never seen a budget nor has one every been gone over in a general meeting. In fact the officers were under the impression that information was for board members only. Now I have taken it over and I am being asked about by laws (which there is none currently) and I am being plummeted with budget questions. Since we are working under the school not with our own EIN...who has authority over us and is by laws required? What rule does the Principle have in our group and what rules do we have to follow?

Asked by Anonymous



Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
Hi there,
There's a lot going on here! I'm sure you feel a little overwhelmed rightness. If you are just stepping in, first reach out to the folks who are asking all sorts of questions that you need a little bit of time to get things organized. Do you have any financial information? Start by finding out whose names are on the bank account. Is it just the administration? Try to get this sorted out -- who has been in charge of the financials, where are the bank statements, what's the bank balance now. Reach out to the principal and ask to sit down and sort through this.

The core issue to sort out here is who's making the decisions and who has spending authority. Once that's cleared up, you can start looking at other issues, like creating bylaws.

We have lots of resources for creating bylaws that will come in handy when you get to that point.

How To Write PTO Bylaws

Sample Bylaws

Advice from PTO Today

Craig writes:
Structurally, it sounds like your group is an independent committee of the school. Until someone tells you otherwise, I would operate independently -- ie create your own bylaws, set your own budget, etc. If the principal wants final say, he will certainly let you know!

The main thing to know about both bylaws and budgeting is that it's OK to start simple. Use the sample bylaws that Rose suggested above and include the basics that you know you need for your group -- who the officers are, etc. If your group isn't a legal entity (ie have your own EIN), then you don't need bylaws in a legal sense. However, they do provide an enduring structure that will help your group get organized and inform your decisions going forward.

As far as budget, since you're starting from nothing, it will likely be a matter of starting with what you can figure out and adjusting as you go. There's nothing wrong with that. The further along you get in the year, the more information you will have and the more complete a financial picture you will be able to create. Good luck -- it helps to keep in mind that just because people are asking questions, you don't need to have all the answers. Sometimes you just have to work through things to find out what works best.

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