CNMI SCHOOLS BUDGET CUTS LESS THAN FEARED

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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 29) – The Mariana Islands Public School System as well as the Departments of Public Safety and Public Health face a 5 percent budget cut this fiscal year based on the new proposal of the Legislature.

On Friday, the House Committee on Ways and Means met with Education Commissioner David M. Borja and acting PSS finance director Tim Thornburgh.

Rep. Crispin M. Ogo, Covenant-Rota and chairman of the committee, said the House will pass a revised budget that will impose a 5 — instead of a 15.6 — percent cut on the appropriations of critical agencies.

PSS has a $38.6 million budget for FY 2007.

Because of the administration’s across-the-board budget cut of 15.6 percent, the figure will be cut by $6 million.

"The bottom-line here is to prevent any furlough on government employees," Ogo told Variety. "What we are trying to do is communicate now with these critical agencies and ask them on how and where they can apply the minimal cut on their budgets."

In the case of PSS, only $1.9 million will be cut as proposed by the House.

Vice Speaker Justo S. Quitugua said "the reason why PSS can live with the 5 percent cut is because it is receiving $2 million from the federal Compact Impact funds of the governor."

Quitugua, D-Saipan, added that this $2 million will replace the $1.9 million that will be cut from the PSS budget as proposed by the House.

He said the administration is also in the process of paying back the $2 million it cut from the PSS FY 2006 budget.

During Friday’s meeting, the lawmakers said PSS officials find the new budget proposal more acceptable.

"The issue here is to make sure that we accommodate the needs of PSS," said House Minority Leader Arnold I. Palacios, R-Saipan. "We presented a number of proposals (to Borja and Thornburgh) and we arrived at the 5 percent cut of their budget. We want to alleviate the impact of the cut so we’re leaving it up to the system how they will plan for this."

Palacios said they will now work on "new legislation for this 5 percent cut."

Under the new proposal, with the exception of PSS, DPS and Public Health, the rest of the agencies will have to bear the 15.6 percent cut.

"We have asked PSS how far they can compromise without jeopardizing the operation….and they are amenable to our proposal and recommendation," Palacios said. "Mr. Borja said they will work it out internally with the finance committee of the Board of Education."

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