by Mindy Aguon
Guam - The number-crunching continued at the Legislature today. And the government's financial outlook doesn't look good. So far lawmakers have heard about a $24 million shortfall anticipated for the current fiscal in addition to an additional $10 million shortfall for the Department of Education.
DOE Finance Deputy Superintendent Taling Taitano told the Finance Committee that DOE anticipates a $6 million shortfall for personnel with additional money needed for utilities. Taitano says the personnel costs include a 3.5% pay increase for teachers that was approved by the Guam Education Policy Board last December.
But Speaker Judi Won Pat questioned how the board could approve $2.9 million in raises when the Legislature never appropriated money for that. "You're putting yourself in a position where you're gonna cause this shortfall and it was never approved, the money was never approved," said the speaker. "It's like going out and spending money you don't even have, writing a check for $2.9 million that you don't have. How can you justify that?"
GEPB chairman Ron Ayuyu said, "I'll go back to the board and ask them to reconsider and see if we can re-amend that. That was the main reason why we decided to give that because the former chairman said that they had excess and we went ahead and approved it." Ayuyu told lawmakers that former board chair Joe San Agustin had been misled to believe that there were excess funds to pay for raises, when in fact that was not the case.