Bill takes backseat to budget - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Bill takes backseat to budget

by Krystal Paco

Guam - Instead of convening solely to discuss Bill 257, which seeks to appropriate $100,000 to keep F.Q. Sanchez Elementary School open for the coming school year, lawmakers met in session this afternoon to discuss the entire Fiscal Year 2012 Department of Education budget. F.Q. Sanchez Elementary stakeholders like Frank Acfalle, whose grandchildren attends the Umatac school, were hoping lawmakers would convene in session to deal specifically with Bill 257, as introduced by Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr.

"We're still kind of worried because were going on a run around here we don't know who's really trying to resolve the problem the senators or the governor or the board of education," Acfalle said. But when lawmakers convened in session today, Bill 257 was substituted as senators decided to look at DOE's entire FY2012 budget instead of the appropriation for F.Q. Sanchez.

DOE initially asked for $234 million, but lawmakers are working with a $216 million budget - more than what the Calvo Administration has proposed.

Interim DOE Superintendent Taling Taitano told KUAM News, "We're happy that the Legislature is taking a look at our budget and this will give us the opportunity to plan. Next week is the opening of school and we need to determine how to deploy our resources; certainly we appreciate that the Legislature is taking a look at our budget."

Speaker Judi Won Pat says the bill takes into considerations everyone's concerns by looking at DOE's budget in its entirety, not just the $100,000 appropriation proposed for the southern school. "F.Q. is, of course, a section in the bill to address allowing the board of course to look at alternatives and to implement it to ensure the operations of F.Q.," she explained. The speaker added that the budget, if given as a lump sum, allows the acting superintendent and the Guam Education Board to determine how much to allocate for each school.

GEB member Barry Mead meanwhile wanted to make it clear that the impetus behind the board's decision to close F.Q. wasn't just because of the Evergreen Solutions report, but rather a simple case of economics. "It was an expense of running a school that cost $18,000 per child with a payroll expense of $640,000," he explained. "That was primarily the impetus why the board made its decision."

Mead made it clear that the actions of the Legislature on Bill 257 will make it very difficult for the Education Board to make decisions in the future. While lawmakers continue debate on DOE's budget, Acfalle and other Umatac stakeholders sit and wait hoping lawmakers decision to substitute the bill won't hurt the chances of F.Q. Sanchez Elementary School staying open. Acfalle said, "My question is will the governor pass this bill because he had stated that the bill has to come in it's form the way Rodriguez wrote it."

Prior to voting on the substituted bill, Senator Rodriguez proffered an amendment hoping to make it clear that F.Q. Sanchez would remain open.  Rodriguez told his colleagues, "This is the eleventh hour, " suggesting that the amendment state that DOE immediately re-open maintenance for the Umatac campus and require the Guam Education Board to ensure that F.Q. has the requisite staffing pattern and resources to open the school next week. 

His amendment also would have required the board to explore alternative measures to keep the school open for future school years that could include but would not be limited to the sharing of resources and transferring and recruiting personnel, provided the school not be closed.  Senator Rodriguez's colleagues weren't in support of the measure though saying the substitute version was adequate in keeping the school open while continuing to give the board authority to cut costs. 

Senator Rory Respicio lauded his colleague's extensive efforts to keep the school open, but said if the amendment passed, he believed the bill wouldn't garner enough votes.  Respicio added that the debate over F.Q. Sanchez has become incredibly emotional, even resulting in physical threats. The Democrat senator said he filed a police report this morning after threats were made that he would be assaulted. 

Ultimately the amendment was shot down and lawmakers instead voted unanimously 12-0 to pass the substitute version keeping F.Q. Sanchez open while at the same time setting DOE's FY'12 budget at $216 million. Senator Rodriguez did not vote on the bill as he was leaving off island while his colleagues were voting. Vice Speaker BJ Cruz and Senator Judi Guthertz were also excused from voting as they are currently-off island.

  • NEWS HEADLINESMore>>

  • Jon Fernandez's lawsuit dismissed

    Jon Fernandez's lawsuit dismissed

    The $7 million lawsuit Superintendent Jon Fernandez filed in November 2016 against former members of the Guam Education Board was dismissed. The lawsuit was filed after the Guam Education Board terminated Fernandez's contract due to allegations of sexual More >>
    The $7 million lawsuit Superintendent Jon Fernandez filed in November 2016 against former members of the Guam Education Board was dismissed. The lawsuit was filed after the Guam Education Board terminated Fernandez's contract due to allegations of sexual More >>
  • $13M in tax refunds coming Monday

    $13M in tax refunds coming Monday

    The administration announced $13 million in tax refunds will be mailed out on Monday. The 2,700 checks being processed covers those who filed their returns error free by February 4.More >>
    The administration announced $13 million in tax refunds will be mailed out on Monday. The 2,700 checks being processed covers those who filed their returns error free by February 4.More >>
  • Joshua Mesa arrested for meth

    Joshua Mesa arrested for meth

    It wouldn't be the first time he led authorities in a chase. Joshua John Untalan Mesa was arrested and charged in federal court for attempted possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and depredation to government property. Last week the feds iMore >>
    It wouldn't be the first time he led authorities in a chase. Joshua John Untalan Mesa was arrested and charged in federal court for attempted possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and depredation to government property. Last week the feds iMore >>
Powered by Frankly