Spending P&C funds

At Council, we get many questions about how P&Cs can spend their hard-earned funds. Veronica Elliott answers all your questions.

Did you know that P&Cs contribute around $1.5-2 million in funds to ACT public schools every year? But deciding how to spend your P&C’s funds can be challenging. Committees can find that a diversity of beliefs and opinions hinders decision making. Read on for our tips to help.

Start with a plan

The beginning of the year is a great time for P&Cs to plan how funds will be spent. In forming a plan to spend P&C funds it’s important to consider how much money is available. To work this out, consult with your treasurer and think about your budget for the year. Carefully consider your opening balance, expected income and routine expenses, such as insurance. (There’s more on budgeting in our new Treasurer Handbook.)

What to spend the money on?

A P&C that has strong ties with parents and carers, the principal, the school Board, and teachers will usually have no shortage of suggestions on how to spend funds. Asking your school community for ideas and suggestions promotes the success of your P&C and creates a sense of ownership within the community which leads to increased participation, and ultimately a more successful P&C. The easiest way to ask your school community for suggestions is to do a quick survey. What works best will depend on your school community. Free online survey platforms, such as Survey Monkey or Google forms, work well and collate the data for you, which is a good option if most of your school community has computer and internet access. Another option might be to ask for suggestions in the school newsletter. It really doesn’t matter how you ask for suggestions, it’s more important that everyone feels welcome to contribute and is given the opportunity to do so.

Don’t forget the students. They very often have great ideas. While they might ask for a school pool, you can also get ideas you hadn't considered which are simple and easy to achieve — like purchasing bean bags for the school library so there is somewhere comfy to read.

Setting your goals

Once you have the feedback, you can sort them into common groups. At this stage it is worth noting that not all suggestions will meet the Education Directorate regulations and policy. Larger purchases such as playground equipment and garden modifications usually have specific requirements, as well as some smaller items. Council recommends running the suggestions past your school principal to identify any issues or specific requirements the Directorate might have. Consulting with your principal prior to leading a discussion of these suggestions at a General Meeting will save you time. Feedback from your school community and input of the school principal usually provides some consensus and allows shared spending goals to be set at a General Meeting.

If the item your community most wants is beyond your current budget, consider extending the timeframe. A small delay is better than compromising your financial position. It is not uncommon for P&Cs to accumulate funds over several years for larger projects, and meanwhile you have a tangible goal to focus your fundraising activities around.

Once established, your goals should be communicated back to the community and school newsletters are a great way to do this.

Donate most purchases to the school

Council recommends that P&Cs minimise their assets to simplify bookkeeping and reduce insurance premiums. This means that only assets used by P&C operations, such as a fridge in a canteen, should be held as an asset of the P&C. All other items purchased should be donated to the school. Good examples of these types of items are readers and art supplies. Alternatively, the P&C may donate money directly to the school.

Donate funds directly to the school

Schools are considered non-profit organisations and can accept monetary donations made as gifts without incurring GST. So, when spending P&C funds, consider donating money to the school as a gift which they can use to make a purchase.

In order for P&C donations to be free of GST however, the money must be given freely, that is without a particular purpose for the funds being specified. (All donations tied to a specific purpose attract GST.) A shared understanding about spending priorities between the school, board and P&C is needed for this to work well.

Other things to think about

There are a few points to think about before setting your spending goals.

  • P&C funds provide extras for children’s education. Basic educational needs must be met by the school.
  • P&C funds should not be used to make up shortfalls in the school budget.
  • Read your constitution to make sure you comply with any rules about spending.
  • All expenditure needs to be moved and seconded at a meeting of the P&C.
  • Proposals for large expenditure should be flagged prior to P&C meetings so that as many people as possible can participate in the decision.
  • Ensure that your P&C can meet its financial obligations prior to committing new funds.
  • See also our Information Sheet on Spending P&C Funds and Treasurer Handbook on tax implications

This article appeared in ParentACTion, Term 2, 2017.