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BOE rejects PSS 20% pay cut proposal

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<img style="float: right;" src="/images/Misc/pssEmblem0.jpg" alt="" height="1" width="1" />THE Board of Education, which decided on Wednesday to take the central government to court, also rejected the 20 percent pay cut proposal for the 1,067 employees of the Public School System.

BOE vice chairman Herman Atalig moved that the board vote on the proposal.

BOE members MaryLou S. Ada, Andrew Orsini, and Phillip Mendiola-Long voted no while Chairwoman Janice Tenorio and Atalig voted yes.

Ada, Orsini, and Mendiola-Long also voted to authorize PSS to file an injunction against the central government, which has implemented across-the-board budget cuts in light of the global Covid-19 outbreak.

During the special board meeting on Wednesday evening, Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada presented a proposal to cut by 20 percent the salaries of all teachers and school support staff starting April 1.

In his report to the board, PSS acting finance director Kimo Rosario said the school system expects to receive $14.8 million from February to September.

For FY2020, the approved PSS appropriation was $37.7 million. Due to the central government’s projected shortfall of $40 million, however, the school system’s budget was reduced to $27.031 million.

During a meeting between education officials and Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Feb. 12, Rosario said the governor committed to transfer $2.12 million each month to PSS.

Rosario said the PSS payroll amounts to $1.3 million biweekly.

PSS financial consultant Ed Tenorio said the remaining funding allotments for PSS should be sufficient if “we cut 20 percent beginning April to the end of the fiscal year,” which is Sept. 30.

He added that the governor has also assured PSS that the central government will take care of the taxes and Group Health and Life Insurance of PSS employees.

The proposed 20 percent salary reduction, Ed Tenorio said, would allow PSS to “save” $223,528.03 biweekly.

Rosario said if PSS does not reduce its expenditures, it would end up with a $4.5 million deficit.

Under the 20 percent pay cut proposal, Commissioner Ada said employees will work from Monday to Thursday only.

Elementary school students are required to attend classes for 1,800 minutes for five days.

Under the austerity proposal, students would attend classes from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Thursday, which is also equivalent to 1,800 minutes.

Students in middle school and high school are required to attend classes for 1,500 minutes per week.

Under the proposed four-day workweek, their classes would start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m., which is also equivalent to 1,500 minutes.

Commissioner Ada said the board needed to act on the proposal and added, “If we do not do anything between now and April, we are going to experience payless Fridays.”

PSS legal counsel Tiberius Mocanu said a pay cut proposal requires a 30-day notice.

BOE teacher representative Paul Miura, for his part, questioned the “transparency” of the proposal which, he added, was not presented in the previous BOE Fiscal, Personnel and Administrative Committee meeting.

“All I’m asking is that before you vote on this proposal, we should wait for legislative action to occur first,” he said.

Lawmakers, however, have already said that the governor can exercise his emergency powers and implement across-the-board budget cuts.

BOE student representative Dionne Monique Sakisat Torres said the PSS austerity measure should not be “rushed.” “The people who will be affected by this decision are students…all of these decisions are very hard to make, but if you communicate [first] with the students it would ease feelings of anxiety and general distrust.”

BOE member MaryLou Ada said she “cannot make a decision that will fundamentally change [and] affect the lives of 10,000 students and more than 1,000 employees. The truth is we are lowering the standards that our kids deserve to have. The innocent people that are being hurt here are not the teachers, but the kids.”

BOE vice chairman Herman Atalig asked his colleagues to approve the pay cut proposal.

“With the current situation of the economy, there has to be a drastic change — we need to get this thing approved,” he added.

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