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Board of Education to seek legal clarification on ‘general funds’

THE Board of Education will ask the CNMI Supreme Court to clarify what constitutes “general funds” and how much the Public School System is entitled to get each year.

The CNMI Constitution mandates that PSS will receive a minimum of 25 percent of the general revenues.

“There’s a question regarding the definition of what constitutes commonwealth revenue or general funds,” BOE member Herman T. Guerrero said in an interview. “The Legislature, over the years, keeps doing this earmarking. They intentionally move money away — from PSS.”

He believes PSS is entitled to 25 percent of the government’s annual gross — and not net — revenues.

PSS submitted a proposed budget of $54 million, but the Legislature appropriated only $36.3 million. Lawmakers, however, said PSS stands to get more in a supplemental budget.

“What we are entitled to should be given to us,” Guerrero said. “The governor keeps identifying funds from the casino’s business gross revenue tax funds. We are also entitled to some of those funds.”

He said the board has already approved the filing of a certified question and their legal counsel will soon submit the draft question to the board for its review.

According to the CNMI Constitution, “Whenever a dispute arises between or among commonwealth officials who are elected by the people or appointed by the governor regarding the exercise of their powers or responsibilities under this Constitution or any statute, the disputing parties may certify to the Supreme Court the legal question raised, setting forth the stipulated facts upon which the dispute arises.”

Guerrero noted that Sen. Paul Manglona has raised similar concerns regarding the PSS budget.

“We are asking the same question and I think we need to address this once and for all,” Guerrero added.

“The administration has a different interpretation and lawmakers have their own interpretations. We have a different interpretation, too. The CNMI Supreme Court is the only one that can make a final determination.”

He said at stake is the compensation plan for key personnel’s salary increases.

“Education should always be the priority because it involves educating the people of the commonwealth,” Guerrero said. “So CNMI officials need to be committed to the education of these kids because the future of the commonwealth depends on our students who will be our future leaders. If we provide them a sound education, then our commonwealth will have a great future.”

Source: Marianas Variety : http://www.mvariety.com/cnmi/cnmi-news/local/98721-board-of-education-to-seek-legal-clarification-on-general-funds

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