CASH-STRAPPED CNMI COLLEGE IMPLEMENTING AUSTERITY MEASURES

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By Cookie B Mcaller

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands (October 5, 1998 - Saipan Tribune)---The financially troubled Northern Marianas College is to reorganize personnel as well as review the school program to cut down expenditures and address constant threats of payless Fridays, according to the Chairman of the Board of Regents.

With a budget of $9.2 million for fiscal 1999, which is just a little over last year's appropriation, Manuel C. Sablan underscored the need to put in place belt-tightening measures that may include a reduction in the number of employees.

Sablan explained some of the functions will be consolidated and this could result in cutbacks in manpower. "That would be the last option," Sablan said in an interview over the weekend, but added that if the situation worsens, "somebody has to take the bite."

Since last year, NMC has been confronted with problems in paying its more than 100 employees -- whose combined salaries cost the cash-strapped government some $300,000 -- every pay period.

Almost 87 percent of the $7.4 million earmarked for the college in fiscal 1998 went to personnel costs alone. Overall, the commonwealth spent about 75 percent of last year's budget, under a continuing resolution, to salaries and benefits for its employees.

Due to declining revenues, Governor Pedro P. Tenorio has ordered officials and department heads to be cautious in spending public funds, to limit expenses within their budgets, and prioritize programs in line with the austerity program he has put in place since the new administration took over in January.

However, the NMC has yet to draw up clear cost-cutting measures to help it live within its budget, according to Sablan. "We have not decided yet," the board chairman said when asked if college officials have identified the areas where cuts would be made.

So far, Sablan said the college is looking at reorganization and consolidation of functions to reduce expenditures. He did not elaborate.

For additional reports from The Saipan Tribune, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Saipan Tribune.

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