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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Government Pays $6 Million For NMI School System Debts
PSS now only owed $4.6 million by administration

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 19, 2012) – The central government of the Northern Mariana Islands has failed to remit $10.6 million to the Public School System (PSS) in previous fiscal years. To "offset" its debt, the government agreed to pay the school system’s obligations to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. and the Retirement Fund.

This was learned by the members of the Senate committees on fiscal affairs and education, along with their House counterparts, during a meeting with PSS financial consultant Edward Tenorio yesterday to discuss the school system’s current financial situation.

Attending the meeting were Sen. Jovita M. Taimanao, Senate Floor Leader Pete P. Reyes, Sen. Ralph DLG Torres, Rep. Ray Basa, Vice Speaker Felicidad T. Ogumoro and Rep. Edmund S. Villagomez.

Tenorio told lawmakers that the CNMI government now owes PSS $4.6 million.

It was originally $10.6 million when the administration failed to remit $5 million of the PSS budget in FY ‘10 and another $5 million in FY ‘11.

Two weeks ago, Education Commissioner Rita A. Sablan and Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, who was the acting governor at the time, discussed the possibility of "offsetting" the government’s obligations to PSS.

The administration will pay the school system’s $3 million in retirement contributions and $3 million utilities bill.

"We have seen a positive outcome already and the government only needs $4.6 million to satisfy the PSS shortfall," Taimanao said.

She vowed to continue working with the administration to make sure "we help PSS, which has so many problems such as overcrowding."

Asked what could have caused the administration to fail to transmit the appropriated money to PSS, Taimanao said the government operates on a cash-flow basis. So although there was money appropriated for PSS, "the cash flow was not there."

For his part, Torres said when they appropriated money for PSS, the Senate expected the government to transfer the amount.

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