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District ponders creating vs. joining foundation

| Sunday, Nov. 3, 2002

Peters School Board might establish a foundation to fund extras for education.

In the process, members are considering two options — forming a foundation specifically for the district or joining Washington County Community Foundation Inc.

Superintendent Diane Kirk suggested that the board try to find the quickest means to setting up a foundation.

"We are looking to have a major foundation event this fall," she said.

With foundation money, the school district could give grants to teachers for special projects, distribute money for field trips or bring in artists or musicians to work with students for a few days, district spokeswoman Pat Kennedy said.

In other districts, including Upper St. Clair, foundation money is used to fund arts, technology and athletics, Kennedy said.

Although not common in Pennsylvania, school foundations have been popping up elsewhere around the country for years. The Pittsburgh Public Schools formed a foundation last year to raise funds for the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

"Peters Township has explored the benefits of a foundation and is now ready to move ahead," Kennedy said.

District officials have not decided how the foundation will be set up and managed.

Board members are expected to begin weighing the pros and cons of establishing a private foundation or opening one with the community foundation, at the Nov. 18 board meeting, Kennedy said.

Betsie Trew, executive director of the 6-year-old Washington County Community Foundation, said the township school district has not contacted her organization lately.

"We are still very interested in helping Peters Township develop an endowment to benefit the district," she said.

In 2001, the community foundation collected more than $488,000.

By opening a fund with the community foundation, individuals and organizations save money on administrative and legal fees, Trew said. The community foundation also saves time to join.

"Someone could open a fund today with the Washington Foundation," she said. "But to open a private foundation, there is a lot of waiting — for Internal Revenue Service paperwork and other administrative work."

A minimum of $5,000, is needed to open a fund with the community foundation, Trew said.

In contrast to the community foundation, Trew said, financial experts say an organization should have $2 million to $3 million to build its own, financially solid foundation. An organization also must apply for 501C-3 non-profit status in order to collect donations to its own foundation.

The community foundation pools and invests its money in an effort to help the funds grow, Trew said. It collects 1 percent of each fund's fair-market value to manage and distribute funds. Its current investment policy is 65 percent stock equities and 35 percent fixed-income vehicles.

The school district could save money on administrative and legal fees by having its fund managed by her organization, Trew said.

The community foundation already manages a scholarship for Peters School District — the Ron Miller scholarship for engineering students. The first disbursement was made this year, Trew said.

Kennedy said people might be more apt to donate to a private foundation bearing the Peters School District name.

"But the advantage to going with the Washington County foundation is that we would not have to do a lot of the administrative work," Kennedy said.

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