Amid the COVID-19 pandemic where business and education systems have cut cost or have furloughed almost, if not all, their employees, the Northern Marianas College has so far not furloughed any staff.
This was underscored by NMC interim president Frankie Eliptico during the House Ways and Means Committee budget hearing last July 6, in response to a question raised by Rep. Tina Sablan (Ind-Saipan) whether furloughing any staff would boost the college’s future recruitment or retention costs.
Eliptico said that accreditation rules make it important that NMC doesn’t furlough any employee. “It’s also important for accreditation to demonstrate financial sustainability and to be able to say that we can weather some difficulties in our environment even though this was unprecedented. We wanted to make sure that we were in a strong financial, academic, and structural place to demonstrate to our creditors that NMC is an institution that is stable and sustainable,” said Eliptico.
Although they did not furlough any staff, NMC did reduce hours for all locally funded employees, Eliptico stated. All locally funded employees are down to 64 hours per pay period.
Eliptico said that, under Public Law 21-08, this fiscal year’s budget law, NMC’s appropriation is set at $6.07 million. With an adjusted allocation based on a 48% decrease, the amount is now at $3.1 million, yet NMC has received only $934,000 so far, which means that they have not received all the appropriate amounts.
“What’s pending on the appropriation side, on Public Law 21-08, is about $2.2 million,” said Eliptico. Add to that about $200,000 that the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation has allocated NMC. “So those are pending transfers,” he added.
With the CNMI still reeling from Typhoon Soudelor and Super Typhoon Yutu, the CNMI government austerity, and now the COVID-19 pandemic, NMC has been one of the first to go on austerity. In fact, Eliptico said that the CNMI staff who joined him at the budget hearing are all receiving 20% less than what they would normally receive.
“We will also implement other cost-cutting measures that include leveraging available federal sources, completely restricting any non-federal travels, restricting hiring non-federal positions, [and] we reduce funds that were allocated to all the departments,” said Eliptico. He added that even before the pandemic, NMC was already restricting the hiring of non-federal positions.
In the budget request he sent the Legislature earlier, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres proposed a budget of just $2.8 million for NMC, plus a proposed budget of $51,158 for the board of regents. NMC is asking for a budget of $10 million for fiscal year 2021.