PANAMA CITY — Athletic booster clubs at area schools will face closer scrutiny of their expenses and fundraising efforts if a policy revision is approved at a Bay District Schools School Board meeting today.
School Board member Steve Moss said the goal is to make the booster clubs — some of which have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to benefit respective sports programs and their student-athletes — more transparent and accountable.
“I know those words get thrown around a lot,” Moss said, noting a task force comprised of school administrators and parents provided the suggestions for a policy revision. “We rely on booster clubs now more than ever because of a lack of funding. Sports rely on their money. They serve a very critical role in the success of sports programs.
“We are looking for accountability and transparency in how funds are used and how funds are approved for use. We don’t have adequate policy procedure oversight for those funds.”
Moss said he supports the policy change and will push for booster clubs to make their financial records available in January and July each year.
“We want it to be transparent, and we want the principal or athletic director to have an opportunity to look at the books with 48-hour notice,” Moss said. “If the booster club is doing all the right things and can show the allocation of funds and payments, they should have no problem saying, ‘Sure, we’ll show you the ledger.’ When there is pushback or perceived secrecy and they don’t want to share that record, that’s when the red flag goes up.”
Another School Board member, Joe Wayne Walker, served on the task force that led to the proposed policy change. Like Moss, Walker believes clubs should be more transparent concerning financial records, and he believes school principles are best suited to oversee their use of funds.
“We wanted to make sure the principal was more aware how money was being raised and how money was being spent,” Walker said. “We didn’t necessarily want them to micromanage it. We just wanted it so if the principal wanted to look at the records on how money was being spent, he should be able to do it. It’s not to tell them how to spend it. It’s to be informed on how it’s being spent,”
Booster clubs are composed of players’ parents who can invest hours trying to generate revenue for a particular program by seeking donations in the community, selling banners advertising a company’s logo, working in the concession stand at games or any number of other means. Clubs largely have been autonomous and free to spend the money in whatever way they choose following a vote by the booster club board members.
Moss said he is concerned about booster clubs providing supplemental pay to coaches who already are paid as district employees.
“To me,” Moss said, “the most important line of the revised policy says, ‘No payment shall be made to school district employees without specific approval from the principal.’ There shouldn’t be any ambiguity going forward about (the clubs’) role and what they can and cannot do, especially in regard to booster club funds to district employees.”
Walker, too, wants to eliminate the potential for abuse. He said that he isn’t entirely against coaches being paid through a booster club so long as a principal OK’d it first, and he added that the superintendent would be responsible for oversight of the principals.
“Booster clubs are very important,” Walker said. “Athletic teams need booster clubs because of the expense of the programs. We want to make sure we’re not regulating so much that it becomes a burden. We know they’re very important and they’re needed. We want to work with the booster clubs.”