The central government may have already lifted the austerity measures it implemented in the wake of Super Typhoon Yutu’s catastrophic impact on the Commonwealth, but the Public School System, an autonomous agency, continues to be under its own austerity regime.
A source earlier said the 72-hour work hour schedule is still being observed and this was confirmed by Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada, who assured that he is working with the CNMI Board of Education to find ways to get PSS out of austerity.
Both PSS and BOE are autonomous bodies, which means they are self-governing entities, with their own leadership structure that is separate from the central government.
Ada said he is also focusing on getting the schools back to full sessions, as per board member MaryLou Ada’s request, by early next year.
The BOE has decided to bring the discussions of removing PSS and the BOE out of austerity back to the board’s Fiscal, Personnel, and Administration Committee in order to “discuss other matters involving the financial state of PSS.”
Kimo Rosario, the acting Finance and Budget director, previously informed the board that PSS received more than what it was slated to receive in fiscal year 2019. PSS was initially supposed to receive $37.8 million under the budget law, but that went down to $36.3 million because of cuts made by the central government as part of austerity measures.
But, thanks to supplemental funding from the Legislature, PSS received a total of $45 million in actual cash, Rosario said, allowing the central government to give PSS 25% of the general fund, as required by the CNMI Constitution.
He said that, although PSS experienced a cut in its fiscal year 2019 budget, it was able to bounce back and avoid major deficits, thanks to the supplemental funding and crucial government allocations.
However, Rosario added that the bare minimum for PSS to run effectively with ongoing departmental pay cuts is $42 million.