COAL TOWNSHIP - Shamokin Area School Board directors are calling for greater financial accountability from booster clubs and also a standardized charge to rent district facilities.

It wasn't suggested during Friday's policy committee meeting that any of the booster clubs are engaging in shady bookkeeping, but the majority of the six directors present seemed in agreement that accountability may be lacking among some of the clubs.

A recommendation will be made by the committee to the school board to change language in existing policy in order to firmly require that all booster clubs turn over annual audits or treasurers' reports, certain tax forms, a budget and listing of planned fundraising events.

A template of bylaws created by Superintendent James T. Zack will also be shared with the booster clubs to be modified or adopted as is.

"Because the money is raised in the name of the school, we believe greater accountability is necessary," said Director Charles Shuey, committee chairman.

It will also be recommended that beginning July 1, a $250 rental fee will be charged to any organization loosely affiliated or unaffiliated with the school district for use of district facilities. A reduced fee or a total waiver will likely continue to be given to the district's affiliated groups.

The school board will meet at 7:30 p.m. April 15 in the board conference room.

Boosters changes

Ron McElwee, board president, said student organizations have accounting rules that are more strict than some booster clubs. Like these school groups, he said booster clubs should be required to have multiple officers' signatures on checks to be issued.

Should a booster club not comply in enacting "general accounting practices," failing to turn over requested financial documents, McElwee said the school board could force a new election of officers for the group. The district's policy also allows the school board to disband a booster club.

Directors frequently spoke about the many positives booster clubs provide athletic programs as well as the band and orchestra. Jeffrey Kashner, board vice president, said several groups buy athletes' meals and refreshments for road games, and have also raised money toward the purchase of new uniforms.

Karen Colangelo, business manager, said the elementary PTA raises money for class trips for all students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The group also supplements the Reading Is Fundamental program since its funding was cut, and buys the annual holiday gifts given to students.

Shuey said the Hillside Coaches should be used as a model for financial record keeping.

McElwee said directors can expect some booster club members to be upset by the proposed stricter requirements.

"They shouldn't be upset, because if they're not doing anything wrong they will have nothing to hide," Kashner said.

There are at least 10 booster clubs operating within the district. None of the directors present knew for sure. That's a matter they'd also like addressed, and Director Rosalie Smoogen asked that a complete list of clubs and their officers be compiled.

Directors Robert Getchey and Bernard Sosnoskie were also in attendance.

Facility fee

The facility fee has been a tricky topic among some directors over the years. There had been talk in the past of standardizing fees in light of many organizations asking for and receiving reductions and waivers.

A spreadsheet with 130 facility use requests dating back several years shows the majority were reduced to $50 or waived completely. An existing fee schedule is not being followed in most cases.

Directors concerned with the lowered fees say the district shouldn't be fully responsible to pay out of its own pocket to cover the entirety of utility and cleanup costs when another organization is using its facilities. A set fee would help offset this burden, they say.

Zack cautioned that it could be difficult to increase fees on unaffiliated groups, say the organizer of a for-profit athletic event, that share revenues with booster organizations.

If it's enacted, the $250 proposed fee would not affect any groups that have already been approved for events next school year, directors said. The standardized fee would remain until an updated fee schedule is adopted.

Getchey became upset and shouted at other directors that he would not be part of a "hanging party," alleging that the facility fee requirement unfairly targeted the Bucket Club led by former school board director Brian Persing. He walked out of the meeting early despite the pleas of several directors to sit and discuss the issue.

Kashner and others said the Bucket Club is not being targeted, and several seemed to not comprehend what prompted Getchey's outburst.