The CNMI Public Schools System will end the fiscal year with a higher deficit than it earlier projected primarily due to limited funds it received in the current fiscal year for both personnel and operations.
PSS acting finance director George Palican disclosed to Saipan Tribune that the system will incur an $8-million shortfall until the end of this month, the conclusion of FY 2012.
The amount shows a significant increase from the earlier deficit projection of $7 million until Sept. 30.
Palican disclosed that PSS incurred a $3.5-million shortfall this fiscal year on personnel, while $4.5 million for operation and all others, which correlates closely with the utilities. Based on PSS records, it owes the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. $3.6 million as of the August billing date. The $8-million funding deficiency is as of Sept. 10.
This fiscal year 2012, PSS is only appropriated $30 million for its personnel and all others. Because all state fiscal and stabilization funds expired in September last year, PSS' only hope to rectify the budget shortfall is the unremitted maintenance of effort from the central government covering the previous fiscal years.
Palican said negotiations about the MOE between the PSS and the U.S. Department of Education are continuing. Pursuant to the USDOE mandate, budget for education must reflect 25 percent of the entire government budget.
To address the projected shortfall, Palican said it is the goal of PSS to continue its discussion with the central government on the unmet MOE as well as the unremitted appropriations for prior years. He did not elaborate.
Saipan Tribune learned that approximately $4.5 million was the amount that “remains owed” to date on MOE which covered fiscal years 2010 and 2011. It was two years ago when PSS was awarded $32.4 million total SFSF money which was authorized for expenditure until Sept. 30, 2011.
PSS has a a little over 900 employees including about 300 federally funded personnel. Of the figure, teachers and instructors alone total a little over 400.
According to the acting finance director, PSS-due to lack of funds-had enforced limited processing of purchase orders for schools. This measure, he said, had started several months ago in anticipation of budget constraints.
PSS principals' representative for secondary school, Hopwood Junior High principal Jonas Barcinas, shared that since the beginning of the school year school administrators have been asked by Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D, to carefully plan for their expenditures. Individual school's education tax credit donations, he said, were also asked to be utilized for the school's immediate needs such as supplies.
Barcinas said Hopwood last requested a purchase order from PSS central in summer to pay for the security contract of the school. But for the other school needs like minor repairs, fuel of school vehicle, tissues, and others are being procured using the school's ETC, which averages $15,000 to $20,000 a year.
At Marianas High School, principal Cherlyn Cabrera said the school is spending for its miscellaneous needs through the help of ETC. She also credited the school's survival to the active involvement of its PTA and MHS' community partners.
MHS is the largest and oldest school on island with 1,454 students as of Friday versus only 35 teachers onboard.
Because budget hampers the system's hiring plans, many administrators and staff have been doing “extra” work for their schools. Cabrera, along with her vice principals and counselors, are also conducting classes on campus due to shortage of teachers.
MHS has an average class size of 42:1. Bigger ratios are also evident in classes at performing arts, JROTC program, and physical education.