With the budget law signed yesterday, the Public School System receives—with its $33.44 million—about 25 percent of the $134.33 million budget passed by the Legislature.
However, Board of Education chair Herman Guerrero and PSS financial management consultant Ed Tenorio said the number can be “misleading,” noting that they felt that the method taken to determine PSS’ budget looked at the net budget available for appropriation rather than the total revenue sources of about $170 million.
“That’s not the real picture because that’s not the way you should read the Constitution,” Guerrero said.
Essentially, he said, the 25 percent may look like a significant amount for PSS, but when based on the CNMI Constitution’s mandate to give PSS 15 percent of total revenue sources, this means PSS will only got 19 percent of that amount, a 4-percent increase from minimum.
“The Constitution says 15 percent of that $170 million [should be for PSS],” Tenorio said.
PSS and the BOE originally proposed a budget of $40 million; yesterday’s official budget of $33.44 million for PSS is short of that amount by $6 million.
Historically, PSS allocates about 80 to 85 percent of its local budget to wages and salaries for teachers, staff, and personnel, with the rest going to utilities and other cost.
In fiscal year 2014, out of its $32 million local budget, $28.8 million went to wages and salaries, $2 million to utilities, and the remaining to maintenance of facilities and operations.
But the remaining amount was not able to cover their costs as, according to PSS, they average about $3 million to 4 million in water, sewer, and power costs.
In an interview before the budget bill was signed yesterday, Tenorio said the tentative numbers for allocations for their local budget is around $29.3 million for personnel and $3.5 million for utilities.
He also stressed that PSS saves $1 million a year with cost-cutting measures it took to address utility costs.
With Public Law 18-66 passed, PSS will be able to restore 35 of the 66 PSS full-time teachers that were cut in prior years, according to Education Commissioner Dr. Rita Sablan.
“I want to thank Sen. Pete Reyes and members of the Senate for securing an additional $1.1 million for PSS,” she said in a statement.
The $1.1 million came as an increase to the proposed budget by the House of about $32 million.
The commissioner said she is also grateful that 1 percent of the funds from the Office of Public Auditor fees have been authorized for PSS use.
“This will allow us to purchase at least some of the primary instructional materials aligned to our English Language Arts, Math and Science standards,” she said.
She also said Compact Impact and Contract Worker funds given to PSS would continue to support programs in their middle and high schools.