Without the infusion of government funds, the Northern Marianas Technical Institution only has enough money to last this February and would close by March.
That’s the bleak scenario facing the CNMI’s lone trade school, with NMTI chief executive officer of Agnes McPhetres saying that they are still waiting for the government to approve their budget for fiscal year 2020, to avoid discontinuing the program.
In an interview with McPhetres, she criticized what she described as the government neglecting to prioritize NMTI. If funding the institution is not expedited, McPhetres will have no choice but to close NMTI’s doors.
“We have enough funding until the end of February and then I have nothing,” said McPhetres.
That means the institution has only three weeks remaining before they are left with no choice but to shut down until further notice.
McPhetres remains confident, though, that the government will not let it go that far and push this issue to the side.
“I don’t foresee it [NMTI] collapsing,” said McPhetres. “If we do, then the government really failed the community.”
According to Saipan Tribune archives, the fees that employers pay under the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program is NMTI’s only financial source for program operations as they do not receive local appropriations in the annual budget. The last budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 did contain a provision that would allot a budget to NMTI but that portion of the budget was later vetoed by the governor, according to McPhetres.
McPhetres said the Legislature has to find money since this is their new obligation. “If we were still private, then the board of director and myself would be the ones to worry, but now this is the baby of the government and they forgot about this new baby,” she said.
NMTI was able to make ends meet with the money that they didn’t use in the last fiscal year. That helped them get through from September through December of 2019. After December, they had no money until McPhetres wrote the governor that she may have no choice but to close the school. That prompted Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to give NMTI $300,000 in order to let the institution continue operations for another two months or about three payrolls.
McPhetres said that that amount is not an allocated funding for the institution but a loan that she would have to return once the CNMI-Only Transitional Worker program funding circulates back to them.