‘PSS needs at least $37M to keep schools open’


The Public School System could possibly receive an estimated $20-million budget for the upcoming fiscal year but, according to PSS Financial and Budget consultant Ed Tenorio, PSS needs at least $37 million to keep all schools open.

PSS has asked the central government for a $40-million budget, but Tenorio said the Governor’s Office could propose just $20.6 million for PSS, considering that the projected revenue available in fiscal year 2021 for government appropriation is $82.6 million

However, Tenorio said PSS would need at least $37.8 million to keep all public schools open and to pay for existing personnel costs and a bare minimum for operational expenses. With an estimated $20.6 million to be allocated to PSS, that would leave the system short by $17 million.

To prepare to possibly receive only $20.6 million starting Oct. 1, Tenorio outlined a few budget scenarios for fiscal year 2021 during the Board of Education meeting last Tuesday, chief of which would require prioritizing personnel costs but still laying off some people.

Ultimately, if PSS ends up with $20.6 million only, Tenorio said PSS must maintain the current personnel expenses for elementary schools, at $11.9 million for 274 full-time employees; middle schools, $6.13 million for 137 FTEs; special education, $1.4 million for 70 FTEs; and $981,000 for the Office of Pupil Transportation.

PSS would also need to implement an across-the-board cut of more than 45% and require a reduction in force involving over 300 personnel.

After consulting with Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada and PSS Federal Programs manager Tim Thornburgh, Tenorio said they identified $10.8 million in potential revenue, including $7 million in carry-over funds from the federal Education Stabilization Fund in fiscal year 2020; an estimated $1.8 million reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency; an estimated $1.5 million in unencumbered balance from the fiscal year 2020 general fund; and an estimated $500,000 in indirect cost reimbursement from FEMA completed projects.

Tenorio said the collaboration between the BOE, the education commissioner, school administrators, program managers, and all stakeholders is highly encouraged to ease the challenges and the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Fiscal year 2021 will be extremely challenging, not only financially, but as a system in general,” Tenorio said.

Right now, PSS is looking at a hybrid mix of online classes and in-person instruction this coming school year.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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