The Board of Education came to a unanimous decision to approve the board resolution needed to process the Public School System’s application for a loan with the Marianas Public Land Trust.
Board chair Janice Tenorio and vice chair Herman Atalig, who initially opposed the approval of the resolution that resulted in the 2-2 deadlock last Tuesday, had a change of heart and voted “yes” during another meeting yesterday.
Board members Marylou Ada, Andrew Orsini, and Phillip Mendiola-Long voted yes to approve the resolution.
The resolution authorizes Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada to apply for loan of up to $5 million from the MPLT and assures MPLT that the loan will be paid off five business days after PSS receives, in its account, the over $12.6 million from the CARES Act.
PSS legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu addressed some of Tenorio’s concerns regarding the loan, like whether PSS is allowed to borrow money from MPLT and whether the loan is unlawful.
According to Mocanu, PSS is a non-profit organization governed by an elected board and is a corporate entity that has the power to borrow money, as it has done in the past.
“It has the power to sue and to be sued, so it has the ability to borrow from MPLT,” said Mocanu.
Whether the loan itself is permissible or if PSS meets the eligibility of the loan to be issued, Mocanu said he does not have an exact answer.
“There’s a clear constitutional mandate that states that any instrument of the government is not permitted to borrow money of any kind to fund its operation and paying its people certainly meets the definition of operations. [However] there has been [instances] over time where MPLT has, in fact, funded operations for different government agencies, most recently the $50 million loaned to the government. An attorney general’s opinion found that the devastation and the financial deficit caused by [Super Typhoon] Yutu was extraordinary and that allowed the government to borrow money to continue its operations,” he said.
BOE member Marylou Ada encouraged her colleagues to pursue the MPLT loan as teachers are the ones suffering and continue to suffer if payments to payroll continue to be delayed.
“Let’s also do [the] MPLT [loan] because we really need all the help we can get. We cannot wait another day. We’re missing over three payrolls and our employees really need it. I would suggest that we go forth and do our best with MPLT. We’re talking about education here,” she said.