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Hart says NMC promised $5.7M in House budget bill

Northern Marianas College president Sharon Y. Hart said a pre-filed House budget bill allocates a higher funding level to the institution for fiscal year 2013, contrary to reports that the bill intends to bring the college’s budget down.

NMC was appropriated $5.1 million in fiscal year 2012. Hart told Saipan Tribune that for next fiscal year the institution may receive a higher budget of about $5.7 million-based on the pre-filed budget bill at the House last week.

The president explained that the new budget bill identified three funding sources for NMC in FY 2013: general appropriation from the general fund, Compact Impact Funds, and the Commonwealth worker fund.

“From a cursory reading of the document [budget bill], it looks like the House is proposing to appropriate close to $5.7 million [from three sources],” said Hart.

On page 29 of the House budget bill, NMC was proposed to receive $4,751,826 for its operation and personnel costs. This amount, to come from the general fund, will cover 150 employees in the college.

Page 34 of the same budget legislation indicated that NMC was proposed to get $376,929 from the Compact Impact Funds. From the Commonwealth workers’ fund, the college is also recommended to receive $560,297 in FY 2013.

Hart said in combining all these proposed funds for NMC, a total of $5,689,051 was proposed to be given to the institution next fiscal year.

Saipan Tribune learned that the budget bill for NMC is lower than what the institution is requesting, which is $8 million. However, the proposed $5.7 million for FY 2013 is still an increase from FY 2012 actual budget which was $5.1 million.

Hart said NMC’s proposed budget in the House bill is welcome news and vows to do all she can to get this amount increased even further.

She said a low budget for NMC in the next fiscal year will have a “terrible impact” in its operations.

The president said she made it very clear to the Legislature and the Executive Branch numerous times, that NMC may lose its accreditation if the CNMI will not do something about the “fiscal sustainability” of its only community college.

According to Hart, NMC is so far behind with other U.S. states and territories in terms of budget allocations for higher education. Compared to the average national level of over 10 percent, NMC currently gets only 4 percent of the CNMI’s budget.

NMC is still addressing the deficiencies identified by the accreditation commission and among them is the college’s fiscal sustainability. In demonstrating this, NMC is required to pay its employees comparable salaries which didn’t happen for many years.

NMC has two funding sources: the yearly appropriations from the general fund and from the tuition fees of its students.

By Moneth Deposa

Moneth G. Deposa | Reporter

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