Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said that the Public School System is currently struggling to pay teachers their salaries and is unsure when they will pay the remaining 30% that is owed from last payroll.
In a phone interview with Ada, he said that he doesn’t know how and when PSS will be able to pay the remaining 30% of teachers’ salaries, let alone next payroll. This is because the CNMI’s budget continues to dwindle as a result of no revenue collection due of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last pay period, locally funded teachers were only paid 70% of their salaries, while federally paid employees were paid 100%.
“What I’m worried about is next payday. I don’t know where we’re going to get that money but we will keep looking,” said Ada.
He assured, though, that he will make sure that teachers are paid, even for just a portion of their salaries, next payroll.
“I will make sure they will get paid. I don’t know how, but I will find a way. The board is going to help pay these teachers. These teachers, this is their livelihood, their passion, they need this money to survive too,” he said.
Ada said he is currently still looking for funding sources and will plead and beg if he has to. “I am going to plead and beg for money elsewhere. I don’t know where to go. I can’t turn to federal because they are highly regulated, we’re not allowed to use that for personnel. We need local cash but we don’t have local cash,” he said.
According to Saipan Tribune archives, a little over 800 locally funded PSS staff were paid only 70% of their biweekly salary last pay period.
Kimo Rosario, PSS director of Finance, said that, in the last pay period, PSS only received $727,000 in local funds. Of that amount, $230,000 went to FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) payment. The remaining amount was the net pay for employees.
“Our budget was revised back in February, [which] only leaves us with $14 million to operate for the next eight months. That was further revised due to dwindling collections, leaving PSS with practically nothing,” he said.