By Gordon Woodworth, Chronicle News Editor
“We are in the process of becoming a 501(c)3” not-for-profit,” South High Marathon Dance faculty advisor Jody Sheldon tells The Chronicle.
Her co-advisor Tom Myott said they hope to achieve the new legal status on July 1, but that their primary concern is “can we do this without changing the feel of the dance?”
He said they met with school administrators about four years ago; they expressed concern that the Marathon Dance might be getting too big for the school to oversee.
The Marathon Dance, which takes place on March 2-3, has raised more than $6.4-million for local people and organizations in the past 40 years, including a record $823,614 last year.
“A lot of money goes through the district from the Marathon Dance,” Mr. Myott said. “Their biggest concern was accountability of funds.”
Mrs. Sheldon added, “The district is overseeing everything and that’s hard for them.”
Internal auditors encouraged move
Contacted for comment, district business manager Audrey Varney said the school’s internal auditor “felt that the oversight required, the district could not provide.
“Their recommendation encouraged the Marathon Dance to go in that direction. And the move will allow them to apply for state and federal grant money.”
Mrs. Sheldon said a 501(c)3 “would take the burden off the school district, but the biggest reason is it would open the dance up to getting more donations from larger companies and corporations.”
She said many companies aren’t allowed to donate to an event that is not run by a tax-exempt not-for-profit.
“For instance, we can’t apply for a grant from the Stewart’s Holiday Match because we’re not a 501(c)3,” Mrs. Sheldon said.
Mr. Myott said becoming a 501(c)3 requires by-laws, a mission statement and a board of directors. He said, “Jody has been amazing in putting all of that together.”
Attorney & accountant involved
Mrs. Sheldon, Mr. Myott and the third adult advisor, Dan Albert, are working closely with attorney Ed Fitzgerald of Glens Falls law firm McPhillips, Fitzgerald & Cullum, and accountant Kerry Girard, on the 501(c)3 application process.
“They have both donated their services up to this point,” Mrs. Sheldon said.
By law, the new tax-exempt non-profit must have at least three people on the board of directors. “Right now, it’s the three of us,” Mr. Myott said.
Mrs. Sheldon said, “We will still have sub-committees like we do now, and the three of us oversee all of the money now.”
Mr. Albert said, “We are trying to not change the process and structure and keep it student-based. The biggest thing is the mission won’t change.”
Mr. Albert said with the 501(c)3, “The process will be clearer. This will be good for us…What we’re doing is not designed to change anything about the dance.
“The most delicate piece is picking the recipients,” he said.
“And we still want that to be the kids,” said Mrs. Sheldon. “That’s the power of this event…The students choose the recipients, they decide how much money each recipient receives, and that won’t change.”
‘Our expenses are minimal’
Now, the Marathon Dance is covered under the school’s umbrella insurance policy. Come July 1, when it is hoped the event will move to a 501(c)3, the Marathon Dance will get its own insurance for the financial aspect, but the dance and students will still be covered by the district, Mrs. Sheldon said.
“Our expenses are minimal for something this large,” she said. “We buy the clothing that we sell up front, we pay a rental fee for the sound system we use, we rent a 10-by-20 storage unit [at Access Storage in South Glens Falls], we buy glow sticks and decorating supplies.
“We pay for some overtime for the janitorial staff, and gas for the shuttle buses, but all of the drivers are volunteer. And we own all of our own lighting.”
She said the fund-raising total announced at the end of the Dance “is all the money coming in before expenses.”
She said she couldn’t give an estimate of last year’s expenses without looking back at the accounting books.
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