The Public School System’s plan to implement cost-cutting measures to avert a deficit at the end of fiscal year 2019 came under fire at the continuation of the Board of Education board meeting over the weekend.
BOE chair Janice Tenorio gave acting education commissioner Lynnette Villagomez and PSS finance director Chris Ching an earful after the two reportedly proposed cost-cutting measures that did not match the original fiscal year 2019 budget proposal submitted to the Legislature last year.
Tenorio slammed PSS’ proposal to cut PSS costs because the salaries of those affected did not line up with the salaries submitted to the Legislature, describing it as “sloppy unacceptable” work.
“I dove into the numbers and I see the inconsistencies,” Tenorio said in an interview after the board meeting on Saturday. “The [PSS] administration needs to be really transparent with the board. I hear that [there are confidentiality issues since salaries are concerned], but it’s not because this has gone through the Legislature and the entire population of the CNMI can see how much employees are earning.”
Tenorio noted that she wants PSS to do a “better job.”
“The proposal that they submitted… didn’t make sense, so that is why we didn’t give them time to present because I already saw the discrepancies in the reports,” she noted. According to Tenorio, she noted that there were differences of up to $10,000 in salaries for the same positions in the two budget reports.
In an interview with Saipan Tribune, Villagomez conceded that they were “slaughtered” Saturday. However, she noted in defense of the report that reclassifications of employees based on improved qualifications could not exactly be predicted. These reclassifications also meant adjustments in salaries.
When asked if she is personally satisfied with the proposal she submitted to the BOE, Villagomez noted that the proposal contained the decisions of key PSS managers.
“…The decision was made to help decrease the anticipated shortfall, that’s why we proposed it. …But it is up to the board to approve it or not,” she said. “My message to the board [Saturday] was that we really need help to communicate with the Governor’s Office to see how much we can get the amounts that they owe us, based on the budget for fiscal year 2019.”
Tenorio noted in an earlier interview that, while she hears Villagomez’s concern regarding the funds owed PSS, the government would not be implementing cost-cutting measures if it had money in the first place.
The BOE recessed last Tuesday morning to discuss further how they would implement cost-cutting measures to prevent a deficit at the end of fiscal year 2019. It was generally agreed that salaries would be reduced.
Villagomez, along with Ching, had proposed a 10-percent salary reduction for year-round employees, including custodians, administrators, leadership, and even bus drivers, among others.
This did not sit well with BOE members Andrew Orsini and Herman Atalig, causing them to oppose BOE member Marylou Ada’s motion while Tenorio supported it, causing a stalemate Tuesday. The BOE then decided to recess until last Thursday; however, Ada could not make it to the meeting, pushing the resumption of the board meeting to last Saturday afternoon.
The board adjourned at 2pm and unanimously voted to resume cost-cutting talks during their fiscal, personnel, and administration committee meeting on May 21, 2019.