The Public School System was originally supposed to get $37.8 million for fiscal year 2019 under the budget law. That went down to $36.3 million because of cuts made by the central government as part of austerity measures. But then, PSS actually got a total of $45 million in actual cash, thanks to supplemental funding from the Legislature, according to Kimo Rosario, acting Finance and Budget director, in his report to the CNMI Board of Education last Thursday.
Overall, Rosario described the financial health of both PSS and BOE as “good.”
He told the board that, although PSS experienced a cut in its fiscal year 2019 budget from the austerity measures, it was able to bounce back and avoided major deficits, thanks to crucial government allocations.
In his presentation to the board, he reported that the fiscal year 2019 budget for PSS was $37.8 million and PSS received supplemental funding of $7.2 million, and both added to be the overall total of $45 million.
“With the inclusion of all funding [and the actual cash received], we did not overspend,” Rosario said.
As for expenses, Rosario said that PSS spent $44.69 million, with $39.33 million going to personnel, $4.59 million spent on operations, and $764,207 on utilities.
Rosario said if PSS went with the revised funding of $37.8 million, they would have overspent had they not been given the supplemental funding.
Rosario also notified the board that, as of last Sept. 15, the CNMI government owed PSS $5.4 million, but that went up to $7.7 million on Sept. 29, 2019, near the end of the fiscal year. In order to resolve this dispute, the CNMI government agreed to offset the amount by absorbing certain expenses like withholding taxes, Group Health & Life Insurance payments, payrolls, local obligations, and open encumbrances. Also, the CNMI government gave PSS a total of $8 million past the fiscal year.
“In our meeting with the governor and the lieutenant governor, we told them that we needed $8.3 million and that they would pay the remaining $300,000 in the future. The $8 million transfer got us out of a $7.7 million deficit, leaving PSS with $300,000 left to spend,” Rosario said.
The projected fiscal year 2020 budget for PSS operations is $37.7 million plus supplemental funding of $4.4 million, totaling $42.1 million, plus $700,000 that PSS expects to receive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Rosario said that PSS has already submitted its project plan to FEMA and is expecting to get the money once the plan is approved.
Rosario told the board the bare minimum for PSS to effectively run with ongoing pay cuts is at $42 million. He indicated that, with consistent fund transfers from the CNMI government, PSS will not have a problem with its expenditures and that PSS has already settled its debts with local vendors as of last Wednesday. “I keep a close check [on the PSS accounts] to see if the CNMI government has transferred appropriations to our account,” Rosario said.
He said PSS is running fine to date and schools should carefully use their funding, but another typhoon scenario like Super Typhoon Yutu in 2018 could be devastating. “Fingers crossed that another typhoon like [Super Typhoon] Yutu does not happen,” Rosario said.