School board concerned about GDOE budget cuts

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During a work session held Tuesday, the education board found out more cuts to its current FY 2021 appropriations which posed new challenges as the budget bill awaits the Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s signature or veto in the coming days.

On top of the concerns raised by the education budget and finance committee is the impact of the reduction to GDOE’s finances and its capacity to address requirements under the 14 points of adequate education.

GDOE uses the ’14 points’ as a checklist to gauge its performance for the entire school year. Its provisions include requirements for certified teachers and other education professionals; air-conditioned and properly-ventilated classrooms; adequate textbooks and learning materials, among others.

Initially, at the start of the budget hearings, education officials were informed of a 5 percent cut to its budget which is around $11 million.

However, with the current substitute bill that was passed by the legislature, Superintendent Jon Fernandez says the anticipated cut is at least $3 million more than what was previously projected.

Fernandez says the special fund revenues allocated for education took a hit, with only the Territorial Educational Facilities Fund (TEFF) funds projected to increase from around $14 million to $15.5 million in the incoming fiscal year.

TEFF funds come from property tax collections. Still, according to Fernandez, there are still uncertainties with the TEFF revenue projections.

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“When you add all of that together, what we are talking about is an overall decrease in our budget of negative $14.6 million. So remember we talked about $11 million in the range that we started in that discussion. Right now, with the substitute bill, it is a little bit $14.6 million that has been reduced in our budget,” Fernandez said.

Absorbing the $14.6 million cut is tough, according to the superintendent, but once the FY2021 budget is approved and the final numbers are in the board would have to meet in another work session and adopt a spending plan for the incoming fiscal year. The plan would set the priorities of the department, address some of the major policy matters that would have to be addressed, and authorize a transfer authority level for the superintendent.

GEB Vice Chair Mark Mendiola says with the budget bill still pending approval, this is the time to point out the challenges with the current education appropriations.

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