GDOE owes $7 million to vendors.
Guam – The Guam Department of Education’s hands are tied up in terms of spending any money on additional school aides, textbooks, or fixing up repairs to schools because of their $7 million dollar vendor payables.
GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez says, “The fact that we’re paying these old bills and trying to make our budget work means that as we’re trying to pay those old bills, we’re unable to invest these resources for our kids and our classrooms.”
Fernandez is referring to the $13 million dollar shortfall in funds that the department is suffering from. He explains that one of the resources they can’t afford is adding security at the schools.
Fernandez continues, “A lot of parents complain to us because we don’t have enough staff to address some of the schools where they see issues in supervision and support. Sometimes we’re forced to make a decision between paying our power bill and ensuring that we have the necessary school aides.”
In GDOE’s 2016 budget request made in June, the department asked for $8-million for school-based staffing and critical high-risk staff support including substitute teachers, 80 school aides, and additional one-to-one aides. Fernandez says because of the lack of funding, GDOE also can’t spend money on instructional supplies as well.
Fernandez says, “So when people come asking for instructional supplies and equipment, when students ask for textbooks and other resources such as staff support especially at our high schools, we’re not able to make those additional investments because we need to reserve those funds to pay those old bills.”
Among the other items GDOE requested for include $20 million for upgrades in health and safety improvements at the schools, $5 million for collateral equipment to replace dilapidated and damaged desks, chairs and tables across the district and $650-thousand for classroom renovations to expand the Pre-K program. At a public hearing earlier this week, GDOE Deputy Superintendent Taling Taitano said the total owed to vendors is $7-million, but $1.5 of that $7 million is for invoices 90 days and more.
“Those payables include our utility payments, food services payments, they include all the contracts related to maintenance such as our air conditioning, pest control, solid waste and so forth,” says Fernandez.
He is hoping that Vice Speaker Bj Cruz’s Bill 294, which would appropriate about $2.8 million to GDOE from the 2016 Territorial Educational Facilities Fund is passed. Fernandez says, “I don’t know if it’ll be in an amount that’ll help us completely resolve that issue but I hope it’ll be progress in terms of offsetting some of that shortfall we accumulated over the past few years.”