2014 Merit Bonuses Pose Budget Problem For Guam DOE
By Louella Losinio
HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Feb. 1, 2013) – After placing $2 million for merit bonuses in its fiscal year 2014 budget, the Guam Department of Education (GDOE) is in a quandary over the lack of funds to support the allocation.
In addition, GDOE still has to determine the number of employees eligible to receive the merit bonuses.
"All these numbers are based on the overall side of the department. The reality is we have to go through around 3,000 paper-based files to actually determine which employees are eligible for the merit bonus. There’s a lot of manpower and hours involved in just reviewing the files," GDOE Superintendent Jon Fernandez said in an interview with Variety.
The files being reviewed correspond to multiple evaluation performance tools, such as the Classroom Teacher Evaluation Program, which the department has been using to determine the performance of the teachers under their purview.
Fernandez said they have to identify who will get the merit bonuses based on superior ratings.
"None of our evaluation forms say superior. But we have multiple evaluation tools that we use. We have to sit down and go through all of them. We need to do that now, not when we finish the review of the files, for transparency reasons and to see what counts as superior rating," he said.
During the Guam Education Board meeting held yesterday, members raised concerns over whether to award bonuses from way back in 1991 or go with the statute of limitations prescribed by law.
Although the board also required clarification whether the statutes of limitations cover three or five years, the members agreed to focus on the decision that is legally acceptable.
Fernandez also raised fiscal concerns since there are no funds available to pay out the bonuses.
"Right now, we are looking at putting money in the FY2014 budget to address the situation. The $2 million is just a placeholder. If we identify funding this year and identify eligible employees and there is available cash, we can use that to meet our obligation," he said.
A GDOE report noted the department has met with the University of Guam and Guam Community College to collaborate on how merit bonuses will be addressed. The two entities have sent in a request to the Department of Administration to seek guidance on the process.
In the meantime, the report stated, GDOE’s legal counsel will be working with the HR administrator to document the procedures that will determine who will be paid the bonuses.
Under Guam law, government agencies and departments are required to automatically issue a merit bonus to classified employees who receive superior rating evaluations. The bonus, according to the law, should be 3.5 percent of the employee’s base salary.
Since its enactment in 1991, GDOE has yet to award the bonuses to its eligible employees.
Yesterday, Fernandez also presented the department's proposed budget for FY2014.
GDOE's budget proposition is around $283 million for FY2014, which is 4 percent lower than the figure requested by the board last year but also 33 percent higher than the FY2013 appropriation approved by the Legislature.
The request included appropriations for removing the department's high-risk status, pegged at $4.5 million. Activities supported by the proposed funding include capacity building for schools, technology and systems support, and required funding for a third party fiduciary agent. The hiring of the third party fiduciary agent is part of the special conditions required by the U.S. Department of Education on the department's federal grants.
A huge chunk of the proposed budget – around $220 million – will support staffing and operations of the department. Although salary increments have been frozen due to a directive from the Governor's Office, the GDOE budget included approximately $1 million for employee salary increments in the event the freeze is lifted.
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