DOE: collect overpayments to fund furloughs - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

DOE: collect overpayments to fund furloughs

by Michele Catahay

Guam - While the Guam Federation of Teachers contends the Department of Education owes close to $5 million to pay teachers who were furloughed back in 2003, DOE says in 1999, the department paid out more money than it should have. DOE is hoping to offset these payments by collecting from teachers what was overpaid and using those monies to pay for furloughs. 

Several years ago, the Civil Service Commission ruled that DOE must make furlough payments for close to 2,000 teachers. It was back in 2003 when the Guam Education Policy Board pushed back the school year. It was then that the Guam Federation of Teachers believed that the teachers were supposed to get paid for those days, and the CSC ruled in favor of it.

But according to DOE Legal Counsel Fred Nishihara, the CSC also ruled that DOE overpaid its teachers back in 1999 when the calendar was moved up because of the South Pacific Games. He says school began in July, as opposed to August.

As a result, teachers received double-pay checks for the first two weeks of school.  "What they want to do is have the two offset each other and determine if DOE owes the money to employees to DOE, or vice-versa - that the employees owe money to DOE and there are cases in which both would occur. So what we're hoping to do by this Thursday is break down the list so that at least employees will know if you worked at the school at 1999, how much you will owe the department for that year and then in 2003, how much the department would owe you and begin the offset process," he explained.

The GEPB is expected to discuss the issue during an emergency meeting on Thursday. To date, Nishihara says he has already been in contact with the Attorney General's Office on the matter, saying, "We still need input from the board and certainly the AG's Office before any type of final decision is reached on this case on how we're going to move forward in regards to the civil proceeding."

In the meantime, Board Chairperson Ron Ayuyu says the topic is one of several expected to be discussed during its special meeting. He says it's an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible, telling KUAM News, "I urge all teachers to please come up and attend our special meeting regarding that furlough. It's important that they get paid and I strongly feel that, in my opinion, that they should get paid."

The meeting takes place this Thursday beginning at 6pm at the DOE Conference Room in Hagatna.

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