Subsidy Reduction Update Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education | SOUALIGA NEWSDAY

SINT MAARTEN (POND ISLAND) – The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (OCJS) would like to inform the public of the following:

The Government of Sint Maarten provides subsidy in the form of a lump sum, which is calculated based on the number of students attending the schools. The Lump Sum System aims to provide the school boards with more freedom to spend their funds effectively, enabling them to deliver quality education within their schools. Furthermore, with this autonomy, school boards are also responsible for adequately managing the funds allocated, ensuring that their legal and financial responsibilities to their students and employees are met.

The calculated subsidy amounts are based on student numbers, which are provided by the schools and confirmed by the Division of Inspection – OCJS. Over the years, the number of students at the Foundation for Academic and Vocational Education schools (FAVE) has declined, resulting in less funding for the board. All school boards receive a copy of the subsidy calculation sheets along with the subsidy ministerial administrative decision annually, which could be used to make the necessary projections based on the actual student numbers.

An administrative appeal was filed by the FAVE board in April 2019 against the subsidy decision dated December 21, 2018, requesting reconsideration of the reduction of subsidy awarded to the board for the 2018-2019 academic year. It is noteworthy to mention that despite repeated requests, the FAVE board has not provided the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport with financial information related to their liquidity position nor have they submitted any audited financial statements since 2015.

However, pending the appeals procedure, the Department of Education, took a critical look at the subsidy calculation sheets and identified an error in the calculation. Taking into account the financial challenges that the board had indicated, the Ministry of OCJS decided to provide the board with additional funds in the amount of NAf. 182,976.05, in August 2019, that was not previously awarded due to an administrative error.

In order to provide school boards with further insight into the means by which their annual subsidy is calculated, individual meetings were scheduled with all subsidized school boards during the first week of September 2019. During the individual meetings, the introduction of the National Decree containing general measures regulating the funding of schools with the conditions to be eligible for subsidy and their projected subsidy amount for the current academic year 2019-2020 were addressed.

All subsided school boards were also informed that they would continue to receive their monthly subsidy amounts based on the subsidy decisions for the 2018-2019 academic year, until the end of October 2019 awaiting the finalization of the subsidy decisions for the 2019-2020 academic year.

The calculated subsidy amounts to be granted to the school boards for the 2019-2020 academic year were approved by the Council of Ministers on the 29th of October 2019. The signed Ministerial Administrative Decisions are currently being processed by the Department of General Affairs.

The former Minister of Education, Mr. Wycliffe Smith, had the opportunity to conclude the advice on the appeal case, before his last day of service. The Department of General Affairs is currently processing the advice and the FAVE board will receive a copy of the decision within short.

The former Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport also approved the ‘Stichting Overheidsaccountantsbureau’ (SOAB) to execute an operational audit of all the subsidized schools. The findings of the audit will be used to evaluate the funding system in order to determine whether the allocated funds are used effectively. The anticipated delivery of the report will take place in the early part of the 1st quarter of 2020.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, acknowledges the fact that issuing of subsidy decisions should be done in a more timely manner and has taken the necessary measures to ensure that the school boards will receive notification of their subsidy amount prior to the start of the next school year.

Source: Souliga Newsday