SAIPAN – The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Board of Education is considering whether to take the CNMI government to court over a 25% budget cut across the public school system.

The board's five voting members — Chairwoman Janice Tenorio, Vice Chairman Herman Atalig, MaryLou Ada, Andrew Orsini and Phillip Mendiola-Long — were expected to decide Wednesday afternoon whether to seek a court order to prevent the cash-strapped central government from imposing the steep budget cut.

The only item on the agenda was the word “Injunction.”

Asked for comment, Education Commissioner Alfred Ada said on Tuesday, “I did not plan for an injunction, but we will find out ... if the BOE votes on it.”

In light of the drastic drop in tourist arrivals amid a global novel coronavirus outbreak, the CNMI government has reduced its revenue projection by more than $48 million in fiscal 2020, and will soon implement across-the-board budget cuts. The CNMI tourism industry relies in large part on visitor arrivals from mainland China where many airlines have suspended operations because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.

For this budget year, the school system is supposed to receive a budget of $37.7 million of which $34.8 million goes to payroll and $2.9 million for the operations of 20 public schools.

In an earlier interview, Ada said the school system has reduced its teachers’ salary by 25% since June 2019.

He said the school system will continue to find ways to alleviate its financial problems.