DOE in dire need of funding...and fast - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOE in dire need of funding...and fast

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - With the school year slated to begin next month, the Department of Education is pinching pennies to make to the end of the fiscal year. And the result if they don't find the funds would be a shutdown for the entire island public school system.

Even during the summer months, DOE continues to suffer from its financial shortfalls. Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood sent a letter to the Governor's Office and the Guam Legislature, hoping to get some help. The problem, DOE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Taling Taitano says, is the agency doesn't have enough money to support school operations for September.

She says they need some $10 million just to get by, adding, "We don't have any legal authority to spend monies above our appropriation, so that's our dilemma."

The letter is asking for authorization to tap into the 3% ($5 million) reserve that every Government of Guam agency had to surrender at the beginning of this fiscal year in order to support the decline in revenues.  Bureau of Budget Management & Research Director Bertha Duenas says DOE has not given a good enough reason to secure the funds. 

"Even if we wanted to release it and they sole justify its release, if they make a case, I can't give you a check that says $5 million if there's no money to back it up," Duenas stated.

Education officials are also hoping to secure the $5.1 million from the 2009 Territorial Education Facilities Fund, however Duenas says that option is impossible.  "There was an audit adjustment resulting from an oversight back in 2008 that wiped out the entire balance," she added.  Taitano says the monies are needs to pay contractors and employee payroll, telling KUAM News, "A big part of our budget is payroll, but we have a $2.4 million note to [the Guam Power Authority], which was not included in the fiscal year budget."

She adds that more services for DOE are anticipated to be in the red come September, which is why DOE stated that the department would have to close down if they don't have the cash. Duenas frowns upon any mention of possible school closures, as she says doe made it very clear how much they needed at the beginning of the fiscal year, and to date she still does not see how they would fall short.

Added the BBMR director, "I hate this - I really do not like this talk of anchoring a memo that if you don't do it, then we are going to do drastic things, I think the way to really resolve the situation is to first process it."

DOE officials were hoping to meet with Acting Governor Mike Cruz this afternoon to discuss their dilemma, however, that meeting never happened.  But his staff assured them that they will continue to actively work with them to resolve the issue.

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