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DOE breaks down austerity plan

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by Michele Catahay

With a $60 million shortfall expected for the current fiscal year, the Guam Education Policy Board has implemented various austerity measures. But the cost-cutting measures could have a significant impact on other areas of the department.

A hiring freeze has been imposed for positions throughout the entire Department of Education, as well the GEPB directed the superintendent to ensure that all travel that requires DOE funds be stopped. Education Policy Board Chair Joe San Agustin says the austerity measures are needed because the agency will see a $60 million shortfall for the current fiscal year.

The cost-cutting measures will be in effect until the board agrees on how the department will spend the $193 million it did receive.

DOE Deputy Superintendent of Finance Taling Taitano told KUAM News, "What that basically means is that right now procurement has pretty much slowed to just emergencies while we try to determine how were going to distribute those cuts."

While the board is expected to meet during a work session in the next several weeks to discuss the budget, DOE is forced to prioritize. With the help of the Department of Administration, the Bureau of Budget Management & Research and even the General Services Agency, Taitano says they're hoping to have a system in place that would make it easier for them to track requisitions for projects they hope to complete in the schools.

"One of the things that has been happening is that we've been working with GSA to put in an electronic requisition system," she explained.  "We're working on the kinks and we hope to have that up and running sometime early next week."

To make matters even more difficult, the department continues to struggle. It's still unknown how much DOE has for capital improvement projects. For now, they're going to have to wait until funds roll in from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Taitano says they're going to have to go back and look at the numbers to ensure they're prioritizing funds and using them where it is needed.

She added, "We're really trying to figure out how much we can really spend. We need to determine what our obligations are with utilities and things like our food services contract, our maintenance. So there are a lot of balls in the air but we're working really hard to get the process going."

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