CNMI education board opposes budget cut

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The CNMI government’s plan to initiate budget cuts across all agencies has been opposed by the CNMI Board of Education. The government wanted to impose the cuts in light of the drastic decline in tourist arrivals following the novel coronavirus outbreak.

However, the CNMI Board of Education rejected a 20 percent pay cut proposal on Wednesday that would have affected 1,067 employees of the Public School System.

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BOE members MaryLou S. Ada, Andrew Orsini, and Phillip Mendiola-Long voted no while Chairwoman Janice Tenorio and vice-chairman Herman Atalig voted yes.

Ada, Orsini, and Mendiola-Long also voted to authorize PSS to file an injunction against the central government, which has implemented across-the-board budget cuts in light of the global Covid-19 outbreak.

In his report to the board, PSS acting finance director Kimo Rosario said the school system expects to receive $14.8 million from February to September.

For FY2020, the approved PSS appropriation was $37.7 million. Due to the central government’s projected shortfall of $40 million, however, the school system’s budget was reduced to $27.031 million.

During a meeting between education officials and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Feb. 12, Rosario said the governor committed to transfer $2.12 million each month to PSS.

Rosario said the PSS payroll amounts to $1.3 million biweekly.

Under the 20 percent pay cut proposal, Commissioner Ada said employees will work and students will attend school from Monday to Thursday only.

Commissioner Ada said the board needed to act on the proposal and added, “If we do not do anything between now and April, we are going to experience payless Fridays.”

BOE member MaryLou Ada said she “cannot make a decision that will fundamentally change and affect the lives of 10,000 students and more than 1,000 employees. The truth is we are lowering the standards that our kids deserve to have. The innocent people that are being hurt here are not the teachers, but the kids.”

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