PSS is paying its obligations, says official

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THE Public School System is now paying most of its obligations, its acting finance director Kimo Rosario said.

Moreover, if the furlough is not lifted, PSS will have $3.9 million in savings for the current fiscal year, he added.

He said the mission of PSS is to pay for all of its obligations and to use leftover funds as part of the budget in the next fiscal year while schools prepare for the new school year.

In his report to the Board of Education, Rosario said PSS has settled the unpaid wages of its employees for pay periods 9 and 10, amounting to $647,623.

For the teachers’ summer pay amounting to $4 million, PSS is still waiting for the opinion of the Department of Labor.

PSS wants teachers to get their summer pay without jeopardizing their eligibility for pandemic unemployment benefits.

Last week, Rosario said PSS settled its Government Health and Life Insurance or GHLI payments totaling $3.6 million — this amount included $1.4 million in Chapters 2 and 7 tax payments.

“Because we were able to settle this debt, [the central government] will resume allotments based on the most recent revised budget, which is roughly $400,000 biweekly,” Rosario said. “If we maintain the furloughs, all those savings will be $3.9 million that we can use for next school year.”

The central government, he added, paid the GHLI and taxes of PSS from Oct. 1, 2019 to May 2020. “That’s the reason why the central government could not transfer money to PSS,” he said.

PSS is not paying the salaries of its 700 furloughed employees.

Federal programs allocate about $400,000 in biweekly payroll for the federally funded employees who continue to work for PSS for eight hours a day.

PSS also paid its utility bills amounting to $723,828 for the period December 2019 to April 2020, Rosario said.

The school system is now working to settle the $946,297 owed to its vendors, he added.

Rosario expects to retire these expenses through the federally provided Education Stabilization Fund. “Once we settle the debt to vendors, PSS will effectively retire its deficit for this fiscal year,” Rosario said.

He noted that PSS is still expecting funding appropriated by the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation through Saipan Local Law 21-10.

As of Dec. 31, 2019, the CNMI government had transferred a total of $485,000 of the $745,000 appropriated by Saipan Local Law 21-10.

Of the $485,000, $250,000 went to Hopwood Middle School while $150,000 was allocated to William S. Reyes Elementary School. The remaining $80,000 went to other schools.

“To date, $233,882 has been expended,” Rosario said. “We don’t owe any contractors, thereby, keeping a balance of $251,167 in the bank.”

He said PSS is expecting to get the remaining appropriation of $260,000 this week.

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