Guam Department of Education Superintendent Jon Fernandez presented a draft resolution to the Guam Education Board on Tuesday, discussing the department's plan for spending and cuts as it moves into the next fiscal year with a further reduced budget. 

The draft resolution calls on the education board to prepare a supplemental budget request, which includes funding for interscholastic sports and health and physical education activities, as well as funding to ensure that schools and divisions have the resources they need to fully address operations and classroom instruction in light of COVID-19.

The draft also contemplates authorizing Fernandez to implement austerity measures, such as a hiring freeze on locally funded positions, scaling back programs and activities, as well as requesting the governor to earmark funding for GDOE operational offsets and requesting supplemental appropriations from the Legislature. 

Some of the cost savings GDOE is exploring include delaying educators' reclassification. Freezing hiring for GDOE's central offices and administrators should save about $3 million, Fernandez said. There should also be savings on utility bills because of GDOE's limited operations.  

Fernandez said a lot of the austerity measures are not new and are an extension of past practices. 

He stated Tuesday that the fiscal 2021 budget does not have an appropriation for sports and health and physical education activities, but that does not mean GDOE cannot fund those activities. 

"It means we have to eat into a much lower budget to find the funds for those policy priorities," Fernandez said. 

This ties into the section of the draft resolution about the board seeking supplemental funding. Fernandez said the board can either address sports and physical education that way or discuss other options. 

"But I wanted to just foresee the fact that in this budget, sports was not addressed, maybe due to the shutdown or the closure of the school year up to this point, but we'll have to figure out what exactly to do with sports and health and physical education activities," Fernandez said. 

GDOE's fiscal 2021 appropriation is $156 million less than the amount requested by GEB and contains about $15.1 million less in operations funding compared to fiscal 2020, according to the resolution. 

GDOE's fiscal 2021 appropriations were reduced even further from early budget talks, in order to accommodate a shortfall in cash for government of Guam debt repayment. However, a GovGuam debt refinancing is anticipated to provide $2.5 million to GDOE to partly cover the shortfall.

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