Requirements for SBO



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The business of education in many instances is the largest single enterprise in a community. Given the magnitude and importance of this enterprise, the individual who provides fiscal leadership to a school district not only performs a vital role for the school district's management team, but he or she also has tremendous influence upon the success of the school district and the community at large. An effective School Business Administrator manages the business support operations of the school district, implementing good business management practices and efficiently allocating available resources to educational programs, thereby enhancing the quality of educational services for every student in the district.


Business Official Responsibilities

The responsibilities of School Business Officials are diverse, complex, subject to change and often vary from district to district. The School Business Official is a key member of the management team representing the Superintendent and Board of Education in the management of district financial, physical, material and human resources. In this role the School Business Official interacts with the Superintendent, Board of Education members, other administrators, teachers, staff, parents, community leaders and others in the community, and often is responsible for designing and managing the processes that involve some or all of these stakeholders in the operations of the school district.

The legal basis for the position of School Business Official can be found in Section 115C-435 of the North Carolina General Statutes, which established the position of the "School Finance Officer" as follows:

"Each local school administrative unit shall have a school finance officer who shall be appointed or designated by the superintendent of schools and approved by the board of education, with the school finance officer serving at the pleasure of the superintendent. The duties of school finance officer may be conferred on any officer or employee of the local school administrative unit or, upon request of the superintendent, with approval by the board of education and the board of county commissioners, on the county finance officer. In counties where there is more than one local school administrative unit, the duties of the finance officer may be conferred on any one officer or employee of the several local school administrative units by agreement between the affected superintendents with the concurrence of the affected board of education and the board of county commissioners."

The following is a listing of many of the responsibilities typically performed or supervised by School Business Officials:


  • Accounting
  • Accounts Payable
  • Budget Management
  • Business Office Operations
  • Capital Assets Inventory
  • Cash Flow Mgt/Investments
  • Computer Operations
  • Educational Facilities Planning
  • Emergency/Disaster Planning
  • Financial Reporting
  • Food Service Operations
  • Grant Writing
  • Human Resource Mgt & Control
  • Insurance/Risk Management
  • Internal Auditing & Compliance
  • Investments Management
  • Lease/Purchase Decisions
  • Plant Operations & Maintenance
  • Payroll Management
  • Public/Community Relations
  • Purchasing Mgt & Compliance
  • Records Management
  • Security and Safety Mgt
  • Staff Development
  • Textbook Ordering and Distribution
  • Transportation Services
  • Warehouse/Inventory Management

Business Officials Make a Difference for the Educational Program

School Business Officials facilitate efficient operations so that more resources may be invested in educational programs. A few examples may include:

  • A trained School Business Official carefully managing a district's cash flow can maximize return on investments (even during periods of low rates of return) and manage the timing of expenditures to use available resources more efficiently.
  • By effectively monitoring budgeted expenditures, the School Business Official can quickly identify potential savings and reallocate them to other needed areas rather than waiting until the next budgeting cycle begins.
  • By analyzing business operations throughout the organization, the School Business Official can identify and implement strategies which reduce the cost and the time necessary to complete ordinary business tasks such as payroll management, the processing of purchase orders and the payment of bills and other administrative functions while continuing to meet requirements for auditing and reporting.
  • School Business Officials across the state have developed and shared other strategies for cost savings in a variety of activities, resulting in economies in areas such as insurance, construction management, transportation, food service and other areas.

The support that a School Business Official gets from the Superintendent and the Board of Education makes a tremendous difference in the effectiveness of the financial controls used in a school district. Without the strong support of the school district leadership, the School Business Officer cannot effectively enforce the rules, policies and procedures that keep the school district operating within the bounds of the law, and in accordance with good business management practices. When selecting a candidate for a School Business Official position, special care should be taken to choose someone who demonstrates the ability to work well with the various members of the leadership team and to assure the teamwork and mutual support necessary for a first-class business office operation.

Competencies Required of School Business Officials

Successful management of the wide array of responsibilities listed above requires a School Business Official who has developed a broad base of expertise - from a keen grasp of modern business practices to a clear understanding of and commitment to the instructional program. Candidates should have a comfortable familiarity with the School Budget and Fiscal Control Act (Chapter 115C beginning with G.S. 115C-422) and the many state rules and regulations which govern such diverse activities as the kinds of investments allowed, purchasing authority, payroll and certification issues, property taxes and revenue sources, and the documentation requirements for federal grants. School Business Officials used to come primarily from instructional areas, but are increasingly being recruited from other local government entities, public accounting firms, and other areas of the business community.

Leadership and Conceptual Skills

The School Business Official must possess intelligence, high ethical standards, good judgement, initiative, creative vision, commitment to educational excellence and dedication to the mission of the district. As the school district administration's specialist in financial operations, the School Business Official is often expected to lead efforts to reduce operational costs, to make administrative functions more effective and efficient, to provide key facts and analyses for school construction plans and to take advantage of advancing technologies to bring new capabilities to administrative operations.

Communication and Interpersonal Skills

A School Business Official must be an astute listener and effective communicator. Strong verbal and written skills will be a valuable asset in relating effectively with the Superintendent, Board of Education, administrators, teachers, other staff, parents and the community. The School Business Official should play a key role not only in the formulation of the district's long range plans, but in articulating the financial and educational progress needs to the Board of Education, other elected bodies and the public.

Technical Skills

The "how-to" skills necessary to achieve success in managing the district's affairs include familiarity with generally accepted accounting principals, effective coordination of fiscal and statistical data, a thorough knowledge of the legal and regulatory environment and a talent for prudently managing fiscal resources. The successful School Business Official must also have a first-hand familiarity with the technical aspects of business operations, especially the use of computers and computer spreadsheet tools. Expertise in these and other areas can be developed and maintained with participation in professional development activities provided by the North Carolina Association of School Business Officials (NCASBO), its international and regional affiliates, and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Part of our organization's mission is to provide opportunities for School Business Officials to develop their professional skills and to interact with peers, sharing ideas and creative solutions to their districts' common concerns.

Requirements for Becoming a North Carolina School Business Official

The specific requirements necessary to become certified as a North Carolina School Business Official and to maintain certified status can be found in the North Carolina State Board of Education Policy Manual in the section on Finance Officer Requirements. Generally, candidates must have at least three years of business experience and a four-year degree with a concentration in a business-related curriculum, or at least three years of business experience, a four-year degree with a concentration in a non-related curriculum and at least 24 semester-hours of business-related coursework. Unlike a North Carolina CPA certificate, it is typical for an individual who meets the education and experience requirements to obtain certification only after he or she accepts a position which requires him or her to hold the SBO certificate, and to maintain certification only as long as he or she holds such a position.

In order to retain his or her certificate, a certified NC School Business Official must complete no less than 24 Continuing Professional Education (CPE) hours each year, more renewal training hours than the State requires for holding any other position in a North Carolina school district. Failure to complete the required continuing education hours may result in a revocation of the business official's certificate, possibly a reduction in funding to the school district employing that individual, or other measures indicated in the Policy Manual.

A Time of Change

For some twenty years the people of our Nation and State have experienced widespread change affecting children and the financial management of our schools. Among these many changes are:

  • Growing public expectations for significant improvements in student achievement in our public education institutions;
  • Growing demand for alternative education settings, such as those made possible by charter schools, voucher programs and other "choice" initiatives;
  • Many new Federal and State instructional mandates, frequently without sufficient funding for implementation;
  • Significant alteration of the make-up and the roles of parents and families has led to expectations that the schools will provide more services for children such as pre-K educational programs and specific programs for children who suffer from abuse and neglect;
  • Realization that public schools must address new health and safety concerns - lead, radon, asbestos, AIDS, violence and other threats to the safety of students - placing greater economic strain on already limited financial resources;
  • Calls for educational reform at all levels, leading to the development of the governor's ABC's of Education Program and Federal initiatives such as the "No Child Left Behind" Act.

These changes and others take on greater significance when linked to the serious economic challenges this nation faces from abroad, and the realization that our schools must continue to improve significantly if this country is to compete sucessfully in the world market. Accomplishing this will require strong fiscal leadership, the effective management of available dollars and the stimulation a new era of productivity and progress in public education.

The person who manages the financial affairs of the school district is in a unique position to recognize opportunities for operational improvements and to implement practical measures to deliver educational services more efficiently. In order to form an effective and successful district administrative team, therefore, the school district must find the right person who can fulfill the many responsibilities demanded of the School Business Official - someone who can mobilize all available resources to meet the growing demands for effectiveness and accountability being placed upon our public education institutions today.


North Carolina Association of School Business Officials


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