How a school or school district handles money can be a charged topic. We all want what’s best for the kids in our community. We want to know that the person handling finances–especially those that include taxpayer dollars–knows their job well and makes smart decisions.
Some stakeholders are entirely unaware of the school treasurer’s role, as the Chicago Tribune reported in 2013, in light of a scandal where school treasurers would use money designated for school use to pad their paychecks. Such scandals have led to more oversight and audits for school treasurers.
Here at DCA CPAs, we offer school treasurer outsourcing for dozens of clients throughout Ohio and the Midwest. We know the public school community well. In fact, our own Donovan Donohoo previously served as Treasurer of CNE High School Athletic Boosters. We strongly support all of our area schools. Whether you’re a parent, a taxpayer or someone aspiring to become a school treasurer, we want to help you understand the role and its challenges.
What Does a School Treasurer Do?
Quite simply, a school treasurer handles the school or school district’s finances. They must also meet certain deadlines set by the state department of education and the federal department of education. By January 1 of each year, they must issue an audited financial report. They also have to prepare an annual budget and publication report that the public can see. They also oversee the school district’s five-year forecast.
A school treasurer often sits on the school board as secretary to maintain financial and accounting records. They keep track of contracts, documents, and official minutes from the board meeting. The district typically makes these files accessible online or during normal business hours for people to read. Job duties also include implementing budgets and tracking receipts.
Zip Recruiter says, “A career as a school treasurer often begins with experience in the education sector.” An applicant will need a bachelor’s degree in education, accounting, or a related area. The education and financial backgrounds can help the treasurer see both see both sides of important issues and allow them to make more informed decisions.
They need to maintain the best interests of their students and staff. They also need to collaborate with other professionals regularly and maintain open channels of communication. Reporting and auditing requirements are in place to regulate this communication. The role requires flexible individuals who can meet high ethical standards.
The Procedure to Obtain a License
If you are interested in becoming an Ohio school treasurer, you need to obtain an appropriate license.
The Department of Education handles this process, and they make sure each candidate has met a few specific requirements before issuing a school treasurer license. School treasurers in Ohio need a bachelor’s degree, with a minimum number of credit hours in the fields of business, law, and finance. In addition to the proper educational background, applicants for this license must obtain practical experience. The most straightforward way to gain the required experience is to complete a 300-hour internship under the direct supervision of a licensed treasurer. Such a program should include a fixed number of hours for fields such as fund accounting, financial reporting, legal compliance, administrative duties, and other obligations set by statutory law. Each particular district may educate interns about other responsibilities unique to their schools.
The license must be renewed every five years to avoid lapses. In addition, treasurers are subject to continuing education requirements, similar to those of doctors and lawyers, to retain eligibility. If your license does lapse, you’ll have to take additional classes to get it reinstated. The number of classes will depend on how many years have passed since your license was valid.
Current Issues in the Profession
As you might imagine, this process can become a burden and it has created some issues for those in school administration roles. Treasurers get the difficult task of managing limited resources while still trying to please students, parents, and teachers with the money available.
As deficits run high, many schools look to the state and federal government for help, or try to secure more funding from outside sources. There also tend to be large expenses devoted to teacher salaries, benefits, and other entitlements. Unfortunately, laying off teachers is sometimes the solution but can affect the overall quality of education. Furthermore, the school board must approve changes, adding another layer of responsibility and complexity to the job.
School treasurers have also had to take on more responsibilities in the last few years. In addition to budgets and financial decisions, school treasurers may handle payroll and benefits, accounts payable and receivable, and student data collection.
The profession of a school treasurer is changing to that of a skilled negotiator. Treasurers who can appease diverse groups of people on a limited budget will find success in today’s world.
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