Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a series looking at El Reno High School athletics and how booster clubs spend and track finances.
Earlier this year El Reno High School hosted both regional and state powerlifting meets on back-to-back weekends at Jenks Simmons Field House, marking the first time the school has hosted such events.
It was a stressful time for head football coach Chuck Atchison.
“I’m not trying to toot my own horn, but I probably spent 200 hours myself just trying to get things ready. It’s one of the biggest pains you can do as a fundraiser, but there were things we wanted to do for our program that we needed to raise money,” said Atchison.
The four days of competition itself brought a myriad of expected and unexpected expenditures. Before the meets, Atchison had chosen to use the El Reno Quarterback Club’s private bank account to make purchases instead of running all the items through the El Reno Public Schools activity fund.
It was a decision of basic math and common sense and nothing else, says Atchison.
“I don’t know the exact figures and I don’t want to give you any wrong information. But let’s just say for example purposes, if we brought in $50,000 we would have paid out over $20,000 in bills. So I cannot pay all those bills from my activity fund account because I don’t have that money in my account.
“We don’t have $50,000 sitting in our activity fund account in order for me to get purchase orders, and you can’t get a P.O. unless you have funds in your account,” said Atchison.
The majority of booster clubs at El Reno High School operate with two financial accounts. One bank account is opened through private banking institutions under the club’s name and overseen by the club’s officers.
The other account rests inside the district’s activity fund, which is overseen by Shannon Ward, activity fund custodian.
Programs cannot use their activity account unless there are funds already in place to cover any purchase order issued.
Knowing the kind of funds it was going to take to operate the meets, Atchison leaned on his booster club for help since the meets were school-approved fundraisers for the El Reno Quarterback Club.
“We used the Quarterback Club because they had the funds and we were able to put it back in,” said Atchison.
The expenditures were staggering, said Atchison, considering El Reno hosted more than 150 school districts during the powerlifting meets.
He said many of those districts brought two or more coaches and they were all provided meals. Workers and volunteers were also fed.
There were expenses to pay judges, hire a meet director to assist Atchison, and an information technology director to handle the multiple computers and Internet access required to host the state-level meets.
The concession stand had to provide for the more than 400 athletes.
“I know my wife made three separate trips on three different days to Sam's because we had run out of things like Dr. Pepper, and one of those was on the weekend,” said Atchison.
Those were all expenditures which Atchison said made it nearly impossible to use his activity fund account, even if he had the money available.
“With the amount of things we had to buy, I could not go get a purchase order for every single thing because I would have been up there bothering Shannon 15 times a day for purchase orders,” said Atchison.
Having the flexibility and access of funds for unexpected expenses, when hosting local events or when teams go on the road is a common theme among El Reno High School coaches.
“We have a booster club for ease of team expenses. For example, when we host our tournament and run the concession stands at games, we might run out of water, candy or Gatorade. We can go to Walmart and buy what we need through our booster club and our treasurer or president can make that purchase.
“Through the school we would need a purchase order and only the coach could go make the purchase (but the coach is coaching and can’t). Also, we have to use a Walmart card that has to be checked out from the central office and they close at 4 p.m. and aren’t open on the weekends. So we wouldn’t be able to make any purchases,” said El Reno High School volleyball coach Kristen Koehler.
Koehler, as well as EHS softball coach Davee Deaton and girls basketball coach Jennifer Douglas, like the ability to feed players on away games through the outside booster accounts.
“It is also much easier and safer to buy team meals. Through the school we have to do a P.O. and get a cash advance. That leaves the coach carrying around a large amount of cash until after game time. There is not really a secure place to lock it up. With a booster club debit card, the money is much more secure,” said Koehler.
Why two accounts
In an effort to create a paper trail for money collected through fundraisers and spent by booster clubs and to make sure funds are spent properly, El Reno Public Schools began sanctioning each booster club on a yearly basis.
Ward said before a club is sanctioned it must fill out paperwork with the district showing its bylaws and who the officers are for that school year. Clubs must have a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer as well as a school-hired employee who has access to records.
Ward said that school employee is usually the coach of that club’s sport.
Once sanctioned, the club is given an activity fund account number. The club is then permitted to use the district’s logo and sports logos for fundraising as well as school-owed athletic revenues for those efforts.
If the club places money into the activity fund account, it’s then considered tax-exempt and is allowed to use the district’s tax-exempt letter to make major purchases such as shoes, uniforms and high-dollar equipment.
Before coaches and club officers can use those funds, certain purchasing guidelines set down by the district must be met. Those steps are:
• Request a purchase order number by filling out a form at the central office or making an electronic request with Ward, Superintendent Craig McVay or those staff members cross-trained to issue such numbers. No purchase order numbers are issued unless there are funds in that particular account to cover the request.
• Spending requests must get three signatures from school administration such as the superintendent, assistant superintendent and athletic director.
• With signatures, the request is then logged into the system by Ward.
• An invoice is then created for the purchase. Payment process for that purchase is started when the receipt is returned to Ward.
• Checks for those purchases are then approved and signed by McVay.
“It usually takes a day or two so it’s not a quick process, but if there is an urgent need we can speed things up. Yes, it’s a process but it’s a process that is protected by law,” said McVay.
McVay said the time constraints on using the activity fund is what most booster clubs complain about.
“My experience over the past three decades is that people want the ability to spend the money they make without a lot of advanced planning,” said McVay.
El Reno Athletic Director Rodney Haydon, who was head coach of boys basketball for 13 years, said there is not always time to plan every purchase in advance.
“When we were at an away game or at a summer league and we wanted to take the kids out to eat, we didn’t have time to create a purchase order.
“That’s where the debit card on the booster club account came in handy. We would just swipe it for those meals and it was right there on the records. We had a limit I think of $100, but we never went over that,” said Haydon.
Funding both accounts
Haydon said while he was head coach, he used the account in the activity fund for larger purchases and the booster club’s outside account for the majority of other team expenses.
“I would put the money we raised from our summer youth camp into the school account and we would use that to buy coaches clothing, shoes or big purchases where there could be hundreds of dollars in taxes. The money we raised from our golf tourney, signs or other fundraisers went into the booster club account for team activities and to feed players after games,” said Haydon.
Both Ward and McVay said the majority of the accounts in the activity fund have small balances and they are used only for major purchases.
In Ward’s report to the school board during its June meeting, there were 18 accounts in the activity fund involving El Reno athletics. The highest ending balance was the general athletic fund with a total of $57,840.64.
Those are the funds used by the athletic department to provide basic needs to the various sporting programs inside the district on the high school and junior high levels.
Each sport must raise its own money for needs outside of the basic operations. Things like golf tournaments, corn hole tournaments, chance drawings and T-shirt sales are some of the fundraising methods.
“The school does not put money in my football activity fund account and there’s no way they can put money in the activity accounts for every sport.
“They give us what is necessary to have a football program, but we have to raise funds for the extra stuff,” said Atchison.