Requirements for Becoming a North Carolina School Business Official (Finance Officer)
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. The specific requirements necessary to become certified as a North Carolina School Business Official and to maintain certified status can be found in the NC State Board of Education Policy in the section relating to School Finance Officers.
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 the 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.
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.
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.