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Bailout for DOE doesn't seem likely

by Michele Catahay

Guam - By the looks of things, the Department of Education is going to need to come up with a contingency plan.  Despite repeated requests for $8 million by next week, a bailout for DOE doesn't seem likely, which means schools could shut down beginning next week.     

DOE is in a dilemma. If it doesn't get $8 million by next week, management at the largest agency in the Government of Guam has threatened to shutdown schools. While DOE had hoped the Bureau of Budget Management & Research would release 3% of DOE's reserved funds, the agency's director, Bertha Duenas, says it's not very likely.  "The projection that was provided back in June, my findings were that it affirmed my position and I have not seen anything new from DOE to help me reverse that decision," she said.

Duenas says DOE was aware of the three percent hold for all GovGuam agencies and stresses that the government can't afford to release the reserve for doe.  The department was optimistic they could obtain the money to cover the shortfall to get through the current fiscal year, but Duenas contends even if they got the money, DOE would still be in a financial quandary.

"The budget that the governor signed just last week indicates that the $20 million is actually intended - the Legislature said in the budget that the $20 million be directed to Fiscal Year 2011 personnel requirements, and so if you use that this fiscal year, you're going to find yourself in the same situation next fiscal year," Duenas said.

While the department informed the administration they were going to be short months ago, Duenas says DOE should have been preparing for the shortfall all along.  "It's something that should've been planned," she noted.  "The void should've been planned. although at this point, I think that I'm not sure what the adjustment, like I said, because of the factors that were included that really should have not been expensed on the general side of it."

Even with the threat of school closures, a bailout doesn't seem likely.  DOE has less than three days to provide the necessary justification to BBMR, otherwise DOE won't be able to make payroll and will have no choice but to shut down schools.

An oversight hearing for the Committee on Education was supposed to be held today, but that hearing was canceled.

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