A little over 800 locally funded Public School System staff were paid only 70% of their biweekly salary last pay period because the CNMI government continues to lose revenue as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic.
It was learned at an emergency Board of Education meeting last Saturday that PSS was only able to pay 70% of locally funded staff salaries, according to Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada.
Of over 1,000 PSS employees, some 800 are locally funded; the remaining 200 or so are federally funded. All federally funded employees were paid in full.
Ada informed the board that PSS is working on getting the funds needed to pay off the remaining 30% of the staff’s salaries.
Kimo Rosario, PSS director of Finance, said that PSS was “fortunate” to pay at least 70% of staff salaries last pay period because they really didn’t have enough money.
“We were fortunate to pay out our staff at 70%, thanks to [BOE chair Janice Tenorio] who secured $250,000 from the central government and the remainder are PSS reserve funds, excess funds, and our Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation funds. That’s how we paid our employees this last pay period,” he said.
For the last pay period, Rosario said PSS only received $727,000 in local funds. Of that amount, $230,000 went to FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act) payment. The remaining amount was the net pay for employees.
“Our budget was revised back in February, [which] only leaves us with $14 million to operate for the next eight months. That was further revised due to dwindling collections leaving, PSS with practically nothing,” he said.
The 64-hour work schedule, which was implemented earlier this month, was based on the $106-million revised CNMI budget. Right now, the CNMI government projects revenue to just reach $77 million, he said.
Rosario said the only salvation PSS has to look forward to is their eligibility for funding under the Education Stabilization Fund under the U.S. Coronavirus Supplemental Appropriation that President Donald J. Trump recently signed into law.
“This is the reality, we don’t have money coming in. Our only salvation is that federal aid that President Trump just signed into law,” he said.