The Commonwealth Election Commission has been utilizing public schools free of charge during election day for many year. However, this year maybe a different story after the election was body was informed by the Public School System about its plan to charge the commission for using school facilities.
Every election year, many public schools are designated polling places for voters on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
On Nov. 6, the commission designated the following school campuses as precinct polling stations: Hopwood Junior High School, Dandan Elementary School, Garapan Elementary School, Tanapag Elementary School, Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School, and Tinian Elementary School.
Saipan Tribune learned that Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan, Ed.D., has recently issued a memorandum to public school administrators informing principals and vice principals that PSS must assess and charge the election commission, at least on the amount of utilities it may consume on election day.
Based on Public Law 12-18, public schools and public buildings shall be utilized as polling places during elections and that no rent shall be charged or paid for the use thereof. It was learned that because of PSS' intention to initially charge the election commission rent and utilities, its executive director Robert Guerrero recently met with the education commissioner to discuss this issue.
In acknowledging the provision of the election law, PSS then conveyed its decision to charge the commission but only with the amount of utilities it will consume.
On election day, the commission had decided to use only the schools' cafeteria for the casting of votes, and the schools' bathroom facilities for poll workers.
Sablan told administrators that in the event that they authorized the use of school facility as a polling place, administrators are instructed to remind the commission of its obligations and responsibilities.
These include “PSS to charge the commission for electricity consumption for the election day” and will also “charge for amenities used such as bathrooms, including asking the commission to provide for their own toiletries for the day.”
The commissioner's memorandum also stated that “PSS will charge for any cost incurred to PSS personnel that will be asked to report to work to open and close the polling place at the prevailing overtime rate/holiday pay.”
Upon vacating the PSS campus, the commission will also be asked to clean facilities used during the polls, including bathrooms.
The commission will also be informed about the BOE Regulation 60-20-470 on drug, alcohol, smoking, and betel nut. These items are prohibited at all times on school campuses. PSS indicated that it will coordinate with the commission the cost of the electricity consumption for Nov. 6 and will send a bill directly to the commission.
When asked for comment yesterday, commission executive director Robert A. Guerrero admitted to Saipan Tribune that he met with the PSS commissioner and stated that “the election commission is working on the issues” that were raised by the school system.
PSS is facing a challenging school year because of lack of funding to support and sustain all its programs and services.