District 117 Wants Extracurricular Fundraising Transparency

By Benjamin Cox on February 20, 2020 at 9:32am

Jacksonville School District 117 is seeking more transparency from some extracurricular groups on fundraising and spending. Superintendent Steve Ptacek says he’s received a number of requests from people in the district about how much money has been raised and spent by certain groups in the district. He also acknowledged that some people and businesses have received numerous solicitations for fundraisers and feel like they are “tapped out” when it comes to sponsorships and giving money for school activities and groups. Ptacek says he and the school board want to know where those funds are coming from and what they are going towards as a means of transparency. “I want to stress that what has driven this is there is no question of anything being improper at all. We’ve heard no suggestion of that, but over the last couple of years every once in awhile, I’ll be asked by someone whether its a club, sports booster program, any of them under one umbrella – some of those run through the district’s activity account. The ones that run through the district’s activity account, we know all the revenue streams and all the expenses and all the bills. Those all come to the board and the board approves those every month. We have a lot of other clubs, booster clubs, and things that are sponsored by community groups that are raising money for those programs that if you were to ask me right now how much money is being generated and where is the money being spent neither myself, my financial officer, nor the school board has any idea.”

Ptacek says its a cause for concern for necessary protection from accusations of improper fund usage and there is a need for a paper trail for the public. “All of the money that is being generated for our students, I feel the community should have access to how much money is being generated and where it’s being spent. Therefore, I spoke with the board about initiating a new board policy that all clubs and organizations are going to be able to show us on a regular basis – report to us, their revenue streams and all forms of revenue, whether it’s parents chipping in money, sales of whatever fundraisers they’re doing, and expenses with receipts. That’s the exact same standard that we have for any district fund. Every district dollar spent, we are audited and we can show exactly where it’s being spent. That’s the same level of accountability and transparency we should have for our organizations.”

Ptacek says that equal playing field for all activities should be kept, as well. “As a bi-product of this, we can look at this and say ‘Are we asking too much money for certain areas of our student participation compared to others?’ The community only has so much money to give. I’ve heard a lot from members of our community about the excessive amount of money that all of these separate organizations, when you add them all together, how much individuals are being asked to give. We should be able to report on how much money is being asked and where it’s being spent.”

School Board President Noel Beard said during the meeting that he hopes to standardize and solidify a board policy that is both comprehensive and fair for reporting purposes similar to what he has seen other districts do in the state. The board gave no timetable on when the policy may be placed on the agenda for an official vote.