Guam Community College Payroll Implicated In Tax Refund Plan

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Territory-wide spending cuts endanger staff pay

By Mar-Vic Cagurangan

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, June 29, 2012) – Faculty members and employees of the Guam Community College (GCC) are not likely to see their paychecks in July unless the administration releases the $2 million allotment it has withheld from the college’s current fiscal year budget, GCC President Mary Okada said yesterday.

The 2012 budget law appropriates $15.7 million for GCC, but Okada said the college is currently operating on a $13.6 million level due to the 15 percent budget reserve the administration has set aside.

Earlier this month, the administration disclosed plans to submit a bill cutting the current year’s $562 million budget by $43 million to enable the government of Guam to pay out the remainder of the 2011 tax refunds.

At yesterday’s budget hearing, Okada told senators that GCC would not be able to certify the July payroll "without the release of these [set aside] funds," considering that the employees’ salaries are paid for by the General Fund.

"We are working with the administration to release these funds so that the critical services of providing education opportunities to our students will be made possible," Okada said.

For fiscal 2013, GCC is requesting a total budget of $20.3 million, which is $4.6 million above the $15.7 million level proposed by Gov. Eddie Calvo.

"In as much as the college would like to support what was submitted, the college cannot function at that funding level, especially since each fiscal year starts off with a budget set aside," Okada said, in requesting full appropriation of the level requested by GCC.

Complicated

While acknowledging GCC’s sentiments, Speaker Judi Won Pat stressed that budgeting is a complicated process.

"If I could do this alone, I would give you your actual request," Won Pat said, adding GCC has proven its ability to demonstrate responsible fiscal management.

"You built four buildings without any local funds. I wish we were able to say that we can reward those who have done well. It’s unfortunate that it doesn’t work this way," Won Pat told Okada.

When asked if GCC could make do with the governor’s proposed amount without raising the students’ tuition, Okada replied that the tuition issue is out of the equation.

"We instituted a tuition increase last year with the support of our students," Okada said. "The net effect would not be on increasing tuition but on the payroll and staffing of the college. As I’ve mentioned, salaries, benefits and utilities are covered by the General Fund."

Okada said the tuition increase was part of GCC’s five-year plan, which has been postponed twice.

"We seek support for classified ranks of employees. They deserve the implementation of the Hay Study," Okada said. "They need to be rewarded for their efforts in keeping critical services for the government of Guam."

The GCC president also noted the college has taken a number of initiatives supported by federal funds such as expansion of course offerings including EMT certification and pre-architectural drafting.

Sustaining these initiatives will be a challenge, Okada said. "It means we need to seek alternative funding sources in 2013."

Okada also said the college doesn’t want its accreditation status to be jeopardized by funding issues.

GCC was visited by an accreditation review team in March and Okada is confident the college is heading to another six years as a fully accredited institution.

"Many of the initiatives we have set in place over the past several years have helped us to prepare for this visit," she said. "In the next couple of days, we will know the official result of this visit."

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