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Session resumes with all eyes on DOE

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Lawmakers convened in session this afternoon to tackle the education crisis as senators attempted to come up with all the possible alternatives to avoid shutting down the schools or even cutting hours or school weeks in the last three weeks of FY2009.

Speaker Won Pat opened session with Bill 224 at the top of the legislative agenda. According to the Speaker, Bill 224 is one solution to this financial crisis, which would grant permission to use the only liquid option still available coming from the Capital improvement Projects or CIP.  

"The bottom line is at least from what I'm able to see on the pay period work load labor cost that is that there is a shortage of anywhere between 2.7 to 2.9 and definitely a need now for 1.6 for utilities and as to where the monies will be coming from, yes its still going to be from CIP," Won Pat asserted.

The Senators attempted to tackle the Department of Education's financial fiasco by trying to figure out the dollars from the nonsense by first addressing Speaker Judi Won Pat's Bill 224.

But senators first needed to get a clearer picture of the department's overall finances. Senator Ben Pangelinan noted there would be consequences for the most vulnerable, the children: "you would tell people not to come to work and the children would not come to school and come Cctober 1, you're gonna owe these people for not coming to work and the children would have still lost two weeks," Pangelinan said.

While lawmakers tried to make sense out of these numbers, Superintendent Dr. Nerissa Bretania Underwood admits there were errors in the finances along the way, but maintains that the department warned of a shortfall as far back as April of this year.

Dr. Underwood said, "certainly sir we are acknowledging that there are major questions that the figures that are coming out within a couple weeks is raising questions for the credibility of the data coming out of our financial services but the intent here when we turned in our shortfall in april and in august was really to try to live within our means"

While debate continues on the numbers, Governor Felix Camacho says he doesn't believe legislation that would re-program bond money to pay for the department's shortfall is a viable solution.

Governor Camacho inquired, "Excess bond money? This is what the school system has to decide, do they want bond money from bond proceeds to pay for their operational costs for the balance of the Fiscal Year or do they want to use it for its intended purpose or at least proposed purpose at this pt in time? And fix schools that are in dire need of repairs."

Senator Eddie Baza Calvo agrees with the chief executive that CIP money is not the solution. Today, Senator Calvo introduced bill 226, which would mandate the government immediately release the 4 million dollar reimbursement from debt service savings that were approved in Public Law 29-52.

Senator Calvo said, "before we reach there I think we should look at other options, whether it's taking in from reserves that are contained within the current GovGuam budget or a reimbursement of funds transferred out in the past or the using governor's line of credit authority."

Lawmakers are expected to continue discussions when session resumes again on Wednesday.

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