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$5 million shortage causes payroll crisis

By Oyaol Ngirairikl HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Sept. 9, 2010) –Guam Department of Education officials are gearing up for an emergency meeting to discuss a funding shortage that may require Guam DOE to cease operations.

Nerissa Bretania Underwood, DOE superintendent, said she called for the meeting so Guam Education Board members could determine how to address the budget shortfall. The meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. tomorrow at the DOE conference room.

"At this point, we have three choices, the administration releases the $5 million, the Legislature allows me to charge payroll for the last pay period of fiscal 2010 to the next fiscal year, or we don't pay our employees," Underwood said.

Guam DOE officials have said they need about $6.1 million to pay salaries of teachers, administrators and other DOE employees. This is the latest financial stand-off between Guam DOE and the Legislature as well as Bureau of Budget and Management Research.According to Guam law, "BBMR shall ... modify or withhold the planned expenditures at any time during the appropriation period if the Bureau of Budget and Management Research finds that such expenditures are greater than those necessary to execute the programs at the level authorized by (the governor) and (the Legislature), or that the receipts and surpluses will be insufficient to meet the authorized expenditure levels, provided that no planned expenditures necessary to provide every public school student an adequate public education shall be modified or withheld."

Bertha Duenas, BBMR director, said in response that "the governor's Organic Act powers to ensure overall government operations are adequately provided trumps any other provision of law (including the Budget Act) when the government's collections fall far below expectations which has been the case in the last two fiscal periods" by as much as $60 million.

Also what "GDOE deems necessary to provide students with an adequate public education" as stated by the budget act puts "should be based on sound accurate information. So far (that) has not been the case in the case made for the release of General Fund reserves of 3 percent ($5.2 million) applicable to Guam DOE," Duenas said.

Sen. Ben Pangelinan (D-Barrigada), said he recommended to Guam DOE in July that it request federal funding, but he doesn't know whether that request was made or the result of it.

Underwood said Guam DOE did request approval to use ARRA State Fiscal Stabilization Fund on May 21.

erence with U.S. DOE in August U.S. DOE informed DOE management that we cannot use the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund to cover the cost of supporting programs and services usually covered by the Consolidated Grant," Underwood said. "U.S. DOE (later) verbally approved DOE's request to use the ARRA Consolidated Grant (RLIS) to support consolidated grant programs. The (ongoing) process is lengthy and is still subject to approval by U.S. DOE."

In an effort to cut costs, DOE management refrained from implementing Guam Education Board-approved 3.5 percent teacher salary increase and contractual services were suspended during the summer.

Underwood said only regular salary increases, such as annual increments and reclassification pay were awarded. "To deny such salary increase would have resulted in further difficulty in retaining teachers. DOE awarded the salary increments and reclassification pay to ensure that the requirements of the Every Child Is Entitled to An Adequate Education Act were met. (5 GCA)," Underwood said. "Every decision we made, we made with students in mind," Underwood said.

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