Many Guam Government Employees Still Owed Bonuses

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Education department alone may owe $4.5 million to employees

By Armando Cordoba

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Dec. 27, 2012) – While the governor paid out $4.5 million in merit bonuses to some government of Guam employees last week, there are still thousands more who are entitled to the bonuses, which were mandated by a law passed in 1991.

It was unclear yesterday how much in total is still owed and to how many employees. While a total count of eligible employees was unavailable yesterday, at least one GovGuam agency -- the Department of Education (DOE)-- said it potentially owes $4.5 million to possibly thousands of DOE employees.

Last week's bonuses were only paid to employees at GovGuam's line agencies and didn't include any payments to the semi-autonomous and autonomous agencies. Since the bonuses were paid, employees who are eligible under the law and who haven't received their bonus payments have called the governor's office, their agencies and the newspaper to ask when they will be paid.

The law, which set precedent for the bonuses, states that "all positions officers and employees, classified and unclassified, inclusive of the Executive and Judicial Branches, autonomous agencies and semi-autonomous agencies, public corporations, and other public instrumentalities of the government of Guam," are entitled to receive the 3.5-percent bonus upon earning a superior rating.

What this means is that agencies such as DOE, the University of Guam, Guam Memorial Hospital, Guam Community College, Guam Power Authority, Guam Waterworks Authority and any other that falls under the criteria of the law, have merit bonuses that are due to employees since 1991.

The problem this poses for Gov. Eddie Calvo's administration is how exactly it will cover the costs of paying all eligible GovGuam employees.

The semi-autonomous and autonomous agencies would have to fund the bonuses for their employees within their current budgets, the administration said yesterday.

Department of Education

One such agency is the Department of Education.

Taling Taitano, DOE's deputy superintendent of finance and administrative services, said once the agency heard about the initial $4.5 million being paid for bonuses, DOE immediately began to work on plans to pay its employees.

DOE projects it will need around $4.5 million to cover this expense, which the department has never budgeted for.

"We never planned these costs because -- we never knew we had to pay them out, until we heard the news," Taitano said.

The news came after Calvo distributed checks to 26 agencies for the delinquent bonus payments last week, to fulfill obligations owed to employees.

In order to cover the cost, DOE will have to ask for additional funding from the governor and the Legislature, according to Taitano.

"If the semi-autonomous agencies decide they cannot pay this obligation to their employees by holding the line on spending as (the Department of Administration) has done for the line agencies, and if it's decided that extra budgetary funding from the General Fund will be needed, then we will have to keep cutting spending even further to pay off this bill for the semi-autonomous agencies," said Phillip Leon Guerrero, the governor's spokesman.

Simon Sanchez, the chairman of the Consolidated Commission on Utilities, said the commission is looking into the matter, as well.

He didn't know the law pertained to the utility agencies until he was asked by the newspaper yesterday.

If the cost for the bonuses is too much for the commission to handle, price rates for utilities could rise, according to Sanchez.

But he believes there is little possibility for that.

"Even though this may not happen, the real question for the government is how does everyone come up with the money," Sanchez said.

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