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Why can't we use schools tax exemption?

12 years 8 months ago #127748 by MIami
My question is why can't we use our schools tax exemption status? Does this hurt any op's on Grant money? How did any of these PTO's start without any funds and pay for their tax exempt status? Our group has had only one meeting and at our next meeting we will be trying to figure out if we want to be a PTA, PTO, PTSO, or PTO.
12 years 8 months ago #127749 by MIami
Replied by MIami on topic Why can't we use schools tax exemption?
i HAVE READ a lot about both groups. Do PTA's make you do certain fundraisers or only so many? Do they govern over all you do? Do they take any of your profit other than dues? Can you tell me down falls for both PTA and PTO's. I know the PTA are really into politics that don't always share the same views of everyone, plus I know about dues, but why are so many quiting them? I want our group to make a good decsion when we decide if we should be a PTO or PTA.
12 years 8 months ago #127757 by Rockne
Hi Miami --

There's no reason to rush that decision. So you guys can slow down (on that decision) while you continue to get your house in order.

Stop by over at this link:

http://www.ptotoday.com/ptovpta.html

...and spend some time learning.

Lots of PTOs do operate in a sort of quasi-part-of-the-school manner, where they don't set themselves up as formally independent entities. It's certainly possible to go that way. You're right that you likely won't be eligible for many grants on your own, if you don't have your own nonprofit status, but you still may be able to apply for those grants in concert with your school (example: the Lowe's Toolbox for Education program works that way).

That said, we do think getting set up independently is the way to go for a variety of reasons.

Why are such a small percentage of K-8 groups PTA these days? Lots of answers to that question. In my opinion, the fundamental reason is fit. Lots and lots of groups have come to the conclusion that the PTA model doesn't fit their local unit. They're not saying PTA is bad or PTA is doing anything wrong, just that PTA model doesn't fit what their group is primarily about.

There are really two core reasons to be a PTA:

1. You decide that the benefits/services are a good value for the price.

2. You decide that the political aspects of PTA (lobbying voice at state capital and Washington) are an important part of your group's mission.

And both of those are group-by-group decisions. In the first case, you need to look at the PTA benefits/services that your group will use and what the price of those are and whether they're available elsewhere, and then decide if the PTA price is a good price for those services for your group. In the second case, it's very much about what the parents of your school see as the function of your parent group. Are you formed to build community and involvement and suport around your school and your kids? Or are you formed for that PLUS the desire to be an organized political body? If the latter, then PTA is pretty much the only org with that structure.

But most groups I speak to don't have that political piece as a part of their parent group work. They may well be very passionate, involved, political people, but they don't choose to mix that political piece with the parent group piece. The PTA model does mix those two things. Is that the right fit for your group. It is for some. It's not for others.

Tim

PTO Today Founder
12 years 8 months ago #128189 by Conradmom
In answer to why schools leave the PTA...when I became involved in our middle school we were using the PTA name. Shortly after we were contacted by the Delaware PTA organization regarding paying our yearly dues. Turns out that we would have to pay yearly dues to the state and national PTA's if we joined them and used the "PTA" name. We decided to save our money and use the term PTO instead.
12 years 8 months ago #128206 by JHB
I was part of an effort to totally reorganize our elementary PTO. We wrote bylaws, got sales tax exemption, and became a 501(c)(3). It takes a lot of work to put all that in place, but does allow you independence to operate however you want and keep all your funds within your organization. But my biggest fear is that in years to come, not all sets of officers will maintain the information, pay the annual sales tax (yes, even as exempt we owe some), file the IRS paperwork, etc. It's really easy for information to become lost over time. On the plus side, the 501(c)(3) status gives the PTO even more credibility and allows donations to be tax deductible. So if you ARE going to run a PTO, I think those legitimzing steps are important.

Now I belong to a different PTO as well as a PTA. I don't necessarily agree with all the PTA politics, but I must say walking into a well-defined structure with everything set up, training available, manuals that can ordered, programs already in place has some huge benefits. It's definitely worth the small amount of dues required.

As far as being under the school's umbrella - I think that scenario can work also, but you are really at the whims of the principal and the district (if they even allow it). In that case, the PTO would function more as a volunteer committee of the school, but finances would ultimately be under the school's control. Not to say you wouldn't have a voice. But who makes what decisions, who "owns" what needs to be clearly defined up front.
12 years 8 months ago #128240 by Diane139
This is my first time using the message boards, and I am really impressed with how much you guys know. It is really difficult to do all this research on your own! Having said that, I'd like to share that I was told by the director of my school's region that the PA is not allowed to use the school's tax exemption. Period.

I'd also like to note that it was important for me to learn that the term "tax exemption" can be used in more than one way. There's the state sales tax exemption, which exempts you from having to pay sales tax on your purchases, and there's the federal tax exemption that means 1) that you don't have to pay taxes, and 2) that organizations can deduct contributions to you because of your tax-exempt status. The latter is the 501(c)(3) that was mentioned in one of the replies. It is a burdensome process to try to obtain certification as a 501(c)(3), and I am not sure it is worth it unless you expect and/or desire to solicit a lot of money. There get to be so many reporting requirements that, in my opinion, serving as a PA Treasurer starts to acquire and/or require an almost professional expertise. For the moment, I intend to apply only for the state sales tax exemption. It's a little less paperwork - though there are still reporting requirements.

I would just like to keep this as simple as possible, because otherwise who will want the position?
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