Govt still owes $3.7M
The CNMI government made payments totaling $942,772 for the judicial building loan in fiscal year 2017, leaving an outstanding balance of $3,667,219 as of Sept. 15, 2017, according to Settlement Fund trustee Joyce C. H. Tang.
At the same time, the Public School System is now current with its employer contributions, said Tang and Settlement Fund in-house counsel Nicole Torres.
Tang earlier reported that PSS owes $212,239 in employer contributions from fiscal years 2014 through 2016.
Tang and Torres, however, disclosed that the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has an outstanding balance of $89,044 from fiscal years 2014 through 2016 and is making monthly installment payments as of Sept. 25, 2017.
At a recent status conference in Betty Johnson’s class action, the two informed the U.S. District Court for the NMI that the government and other autonomous agencies are current in their payment obligation to the Settlement Fund.
The judicial building loan matured in 2015.
In her report in federal court, Tang said the government, with the help of the NMI Judiciary, has applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan for $12 million to pay off the judicial building loan and to expand the building in Susupe and other facilities.
The USDA loan application is being reviewed by the Guam and Hawaii USDA offices.
The loan was reportedly set to be forwarded to the USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C. last Oct. 1, 2017, for final review.
The low-interest loan will pay off the judiciary building loan, which is in arrears and is owed by the CNMI government to the NMI Settlement Fund.
Additional proceeds from the loan will be used for the construction, renovation, and repair of court facilities on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota.
The USDA judiciary loan has been approved by the Commonwealth Development Authority and that the Senate unanimously passed a House’s measure for the loan.
In August 2016, the Senate passed House Bill 19-126 that allows the CNMI government to enter a loan agreement with USDA in the amount not to exceed $15 million.
Of the $12-million loan, $4.8 million goes to the Settlement Fund as lump sum payment for the judicial building loan.
The remaining amount will go into construction and renovation of judicial facilities in the CNMI, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Public Defender’s Office.
For Saipan, the plan is to build an additional building with a budget cost of $1.7 million on 9,000 square feet at the Judicial Complex for expansion of offices—Drug Court and the Family Court.
The loan has a low interest rate of 2.75 percent. Payment for the loan will be coming from the fines and fees collected by the Judiciary.
For Tinian, the courtroom will be expanded, while for the Rota courthouse, its air-conditioner will be replaced.
The CNMI government was allowed to secure a loan from the NMI Retirement Fund through a Judicial Building Financing Act of 1994 in order to build the Judicial Complex in Susupe. Construction began in 1995 and was completed in May 1998. The sources of repayment of the loan came from revenues generated by the Judiciary.