The District scolaire francophone Nord-Est (DSFNE) ended its fiscal year for the year 2021-22 with a surplus of nearly $700,000.
The organization announced this during the monthly public meeting of its education council.
According to the figures presented, the DSFNE had set an operating budget of $124,217,317 for this period (2021-22). Of this amount, $123,522,179 was spent, leaving $695,138 unused in the Treasury.
“It may seem like a lot, but if you analyze the situation, it’s relatively little with a budget of $124 million. It represents about 0.5% of the budget. That said, it’s still a significant amount and it’s much more interesting than a deficit,” admits DSFNE Director General Marc Pelletier.
In his view, the result for the financial year is all in all interesting as it was carried out in the middle of a pandemic period, thus fraught with uncertainties.
A large part of this surplus is mainly due to the salaries of teachers and support staff. Together these were 1.6 million lower than expected.
“There are expenses that were planned but have been canceled due to the pandemic, such as teacher training for example, or even at the level of replacement because schools and classes had to close. The autumn strike also resulted in less spending. All this, the adjustments and the unforeseen situations, have resulted in surpluses,” said Mr Pelletier.
In contrast, other departments generated more costs than expected, reducing the surplus margin. This includes the material and equipment portion, which suffered a cost overrun of $365,418.
According to Mr Pelletier, a large part of the costs directly related to the fight against the pandemic has been absorbed by the Ministry of Education. In particular, we are talking about everything that has to do with disinfectants, masks, protective walls or even additional costs associated with replacement therapy.
As for the $695,138 surplus, the DSFNE will be able to keep up to $300,000, money that will be transferred to its reserve fund. The difference ($395,138) will be returned to the government.
What will the money set aside by the municipality be used for?
“We already have a small idea of what we want to do with this amount,” says Mr. Pelletier.
“We would like to invest it in young people, such as improving life projects, community outings or anything related to mental health. We also want to propose projects aimed at narrowing the gaps created by the pandemic, especially in the field of reading. These are aspects that have been put to the test over the past two years, so we want to pay extra attention to them,” the general manager indicates, indicating that these funds will not be used for renovations or renovation projects.
Absenteeism: the situation is stabilizing
Although absenteeism due to illness was not discussed during the Education Council meeting, the problem is still present at the DSFNE. That said, the situation is said to have improved from the past few weeks.
“There are always cases of COVID-19, but there is also a wave of seasonal flu and gastroenteritis that is raging in several of our facilities, and that is the case almost everywhere in the province,” the chief executive said.
However, Mr Pelletier does not find the absenteeism particularly alarming.
“It’s relatively stable and it’s a lot like what we’d see in normal times with, exactly, cases of the flu and gastroenteritis. We haven’t seen many of these other illnesses in recent years because of, I think, wearing masks.” So it’s kind of normal to see more traditional illnesses now that this obligation has expired,” he says.
However, he believes that these conclusions are not scientific. It is more a matter of observation as the schools do not ask the families to specify the illness that is the cause of the students’ absenteeism.
Nevertheless, according to Mr Pelletier, absenteeism among staff is still relatively high.
“There is a decline, but it is still high. In the past two years, absenteeism due to illness among our employees has never been so low. Our people were there during the pandemic, they answered the call. But fatigue is felt there, we see more and more leaves related to overwork, exhaustion,” he says, noting that he receives the same story from other districts.