Education officials asked both the Senate Fiscal Affairs and Education Committees yesterday afternoon to consider giving the Public School System a $33-million budget for fiscal year 2013 to at least meet the maintenance-of-efforts requirement, but both panels are still weighing the request as they review the $114 million budget package.
Fiscal Affairs Committee chair Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota) said the administration made it clear that the $12 million projected increase in revenue in 2013 compared to 2012 was meant to restore 80 work hours biweekly and pump more into the medical referral program and Medicaid reimbursement.
But Taimanao said her committee is “doing its best” to “at least meet PSS halfway.”
Education Commissioner Dr. Rita Sablan said the Board of Education-approved PSS budget for 2013 was $40 million but the governor's submission reflected only $29.5 million and the House further cut it to $28 million.
Sablan said the MOE requires that the PSS budget should be at least 28.92 percent of the government's budget so a $114-million government budget should have at least $32.968 million or $33 million budget for PSS. Sablan also spoke of consequences such as the CNMI being placed on “risk status” and possible reduction in federal education grants if the CNMI fails to meet MOE requirements.
Taimanao said based on the Fiscal Affairs Committee's review, PSS' budget could go back to $30 million, if one is to include the Commonwealth Workers' Fee and Compact impact funds.
But she said PSS pointed out that the MOE computation includes only general fund revenue and not outside sources such as Compact Impact fund and CW fees.
Taimanao said the committee is not making any commitment yet to give the agency more but she said the committee is doing its best to at least give PSS $30 million.
The Senate is not expected to act on the FY 2013 budget bill in today's session because the Fiscal Affairs Committee has yet to wrap up its budget meetings with some agencies. Taimanao added that her committee would like to report out simultaneously the budget bill and two administration-sponsored NMI Retirement Fund-Social Security bills. The House, however, has yet to pass the second of such bill.
If there is no budget law before the start of the new fiscal year, the government will have to temporarily shut down until a budget bill is passed and signed.