|Last November, after having cut it from the budget,
the Loudon County Board of Education
voted to donate
$16,000.00 to the Loudon County Education Foundation. The foundation
purports to benefit both Lenoir City and Loudon County school systems
with various assistance programs.
At the time,
myself and some other board members questioned the legality of such a
donation. We were told by the director of schools, Wayne Honeycutt that
he had consulted with board attorney, Chuck Cagle, and was told that the
donation was legal.
Board member Lisa Russell requested an Attorney
General's opinion on the matter through state representative Jimmy
Matlock. The opinion was released last week and as no surprise to some
the opinion states that a board of education has no authority to make
donations to non-profits.
S T A T E O F T E N N E S S E E
OFFICE OF THE
PO BOX 20207
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE 37202
April 2, 2009
Opinion No. 09-46
County Board of Education
donations to 501(c)(3) non-profit organization
Are monetary donations allowed to be made from a school board’s
general fund budget to 501(c)(3) non-profit organization?
A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization is exempt from federal
income taxation pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code. See 26
U.S.C.A. § 501(c)(3). These organizations are defined as
Corporations, and any community chest,
fund, or foundation, organized and
operated exclusively for religious,
charitable, scientific, testing for
public safety, literary, or educational
purposes, or to foster national or
international amateur sports competition
(but only if no part of its activities
involve the provision of athletic
facilities or equipment), or for the
prevention of cruelty to children or
animals, no part of the net earnings of
which inures to the benefit of any
private shareholder or individual, no
substantial part of the activities of
which is carrying on propaganda, or
otherwise attempting, to influence
legislation (except as otherwise
provided in subsection (h)), and which
does not participate in, or intervene in
(including the publishing or
distributing of statements), any
political campaign on behalf of (or in
opposition to) any candidate for public
office. 26 U.S.C.A. § 501(c)(3).
Tennessee Code Annotated §
49-2-203 defines the powers and duties of local school boards.
Local school boards do not have the power to donate from their
general fund budget to a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization
pursuant to a local school board’s enumerated powers.
To contrast, the Tennessee legislature has expressly provided
authority to county and municipal legislative bodies to make
charitable contributions under certain conditions. See generally
Tenn. Code Ann §§ 5-9-109 and 6-54-111. If the Tennessee
legislature had intended to provide authority to local school
boards to make charitable contributions, it would have expressly
provided such authority.
ROBERT E. COOPER, JR.
Attorney General and Reporter
MICHAEL E. MOORE
Assistant Attorney General
The Honorable Jimmy Matlock
219 War Memorial Building
Nashville, TN 37243-0121
Now the question, what about the $16,000.00? Should
the Foundation return the money? If they have it they should. The
education is a worthy organization, however the board can not donate
money to any organization.