Salary cuts proposed for PSS officials, managers, personnel

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WITH the Board of Education’s approval, Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said the Public School System will reduce the salaries of its officials and managers starting in March.

“Due to the government’s budget cuts, we have decided to merge positions within PSS,” he told the BOE’s fiscal, personnel and administrative committee which met on Wednesday.

“In addition, it is with deepest regret that I must notify all PSS staff that salary adjustments need to be implemented throughout the organization. The revised budget necessitates deeper cuts than before,” Ada added.

He proposed a new organizational chart that will be based on the “necessary salary adjustments…at the management level.”

Under the current organizational chart, PSS has four associate commissioners: for accountability, research and evaluation; instructional services; administrative services; and student and support services.

Ada noted that student support services has the largest number of programs. “There’s a disproportion of responsibilities for key management and one program under this organizational chart is showing one function only — just the admin.”

Under the new organizational chart, Ada said there will be one commissioner, one associate commissioner and five directors for accountability, research, and evaluation/performance; curriculum and instruction/learning; federal programs; student support services; and finance/operations.

Other directors will now be called program managers, he added.

The changes will result in salary adjustments which have to be done “in order to maintain our $1.8 million a month” budget, Ada said.

The Board of Education’s fiscal, personnel and administrative committee meets at the BOE office on Wednesday.  Photo by Lori Lyn C. Lirio

For FY 2020, PSS was originally appropriated $37 million. But due to the recent cancellation of flights because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the CNMI government projected a revenue shortfall of $40 million in the current fiscal year.

As of Feb. 12, 2020, the revised PSS budget was $27 million.

To date, PSS has $13 million left in its FY 2020 budget or $1.8 million per month for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30, 2020.

In Oct. 2017, PSS implemented pay hikes for its employees that increased its personnel cost to $42.8 million a year.

In June 2019, due to a revenue shortfall, the BOE approved a 50% reduction of the employees’ pay hike. This reduced PSS’ annual personnel cost to $34 million.

With a further reduction in the government’s revenue projection, Ada said “change is needed” to cope with the budget shortfall.

He noted that the compensation plan implemented in 2017 “did not have the sustainability to meet the financial obligations nor did it have a contingency plan should the economy face a shortfall.”

Ada said his proposed changes have to be sustained through the next two years. “They must roll over to the next fiscal year and beyond,” he told the BOE fiscal, personnel, and administrative committee members: BOE Chairwoman Janice Tenorio, Vice Chairman Herman Atalig, and member Phillip Mendiola-Long.

They approved Ada’s proposal and will recommend the same to the full board whose two other elected members are MaryLou S. Ada and Andrew L. Orsini.

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