May 24, 2024

The University of Guam will be in charge of deciding whether an additional $3.6 million given by the Guam Legislature goes to faculty salary increases or other crucial university spending areas in the following fiscal year.

The additional $3.6 million for UOG in the budget plan was passed by lawmakers on Monday. This money was originally intended to pay for teacher salaries since they haven’t received a sizable pay increase since 1991. However, as a result of a modification from Speaker Therese Terlaje, the fiscal 2024 budget legislation now leaves it up to UOG leadership to decide how to spend that money rather than directly designating it for raises.


The institution requested $24.5 million more than what UOG expected to spend in order to cover costs like electricity and maintenance for the forthcoming fiscal year. The board of regents at UOG approved raises.


Vice Speaker Tina Mua Barnes, who pushed for lawmakers to approve the raises last week, was largely responsible for resolving disagreement over the source of financing for the additional $3.6 million. Barnes was looking at money in the Guam government’s rainy day fund, which is intended to cover debts or avert a deficit in the case of a liquidity crunch.


Barnes revised her proposal to instead use any excess tax money that remains after GovGuam’s fiscal 2022 records are audited after strong discussion over the allocation of the Rainy Day Fund.


Sen. Telo Taitague, who last week spearheaded the charge against the wage raises, endorsed Barnes’ modification and stated, “I have no objections to it.”


However, not every senator supported giving UOG the additional funds.


If funds were available and UOG administration chose to use them for teacher salaries, Sen. Chris Duenas highlighted that “this will now be a fixed cost for the University of Guam.”


He added it would have been preferable for UOG, which has its own revenue, to choose to pay for the salary adjustment. Senators’ approval of the funding means that “we’ll be talking about this for the next fiscal year appropriation within this august body.”


Sen. Joanne Brown agreed with Duenas. Brown said that despite Terlaje’s adjustment to the funding freezing tuition through 2024, the trade-off was not fair.


Brown stated, “We’re going to add another $3.6 million that we’re going to fund the University of Guam to pay these pay raises in exchange for one year here of not raising tuition.” “And I don’t contest its significance. It’s long overdue, in my opinion. However, the greater issue financially is that what we’re doing is forcing Guam’s taxpayers to continue making payments for raises. Colleagues, it is the truth; let’s not try to package it any differently.


If not right away, when?


Sen. Chris Barnett, the chair of the education committee, testified in favor of university faculty receiving a pay increase.


According to the board of regents’ assessment, the faculty in question haven’t seen a meaningful raise in at least 30 years, Barnett said.


If not right away, when? Naturally, I would prefer that the funds go into student services. But once more, the University of Guam is free to do anything they want with the funds.


Others criticized lawmakers for making a tuition freeze a requirement for financing, including Republican Minority Leader Frank Blas Jr.


“Do this before I can give you what I promised you,” it sounds like. Simply put, I have to express that worry,” Blas stated.


Sen. Tom Fisher claimed that a tuition freeze would bankrupt the university and accused his colleagues of “legislating by threat.”


“‘We are going to do all we can to cripple you if we don’t get what we want.’ That doesn’t strike me as a terribly effective, uplifting, or democratic method of working, Fisher added.


Terlaje, who amended the budget statute to include the tuition freeze provision, took issue with Fisher’s assertion.


“I believe that is incorrect, as we have just witnessed wage increases at the institution followed by tuition increases to cover those salary increases. And that is what we have been working on in the Legislature, to encourage individuals to enroll at the University of Guam,” Terlaje said, noting that legislators had funded a number of UOG initiatives with tax dollars.


Sen. Joe San Agustin, the chair of the appropriations committee, added that lawmakers already frozen UOG tuition through the fiscal year 2025 in exchange for UOG receiving a 22% general pay boost for its workers.


San Agustin said, “Just for the record, did a little check with the clerks.” “There were no complaints when we implemented the 22% wage increase. Additionally, we restricted the university.


The speaker and vice speaker, as well as Senators Barnett, San Agustin, Taitague, Sabina Perez, Jesse Lujan, Will Parkinson, Roy Quinata, Dwayne San Nicolas, and Amanda Shelton, voted in support of the $3.6 million for UOG.


Sens. Brown, Duenas, Fisher, and Blas did not.


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