Monday, September 19, 2011

University of Guam Tuition Fee Increase Averted


ANSWERING the pleas from University of Guam students who protested against a 5 percent tuition rate hike during a public hearing held at the Mangilao campus, lawmakers quickly passed emergency Bill 308 during the last day of session yesterday, waiving the requirement of a public hearing and appropriating $1.36 million from the Supplemental Appropriations Revenue Fund.

The bill’s sponsor, appropriations chairman Senator Ben Pangelinan, yesterday said the funds should avert a tuition fee increase. The Board of Regents will meet next Thursday, Sept. 29 to decide on the tuition increase proposal.

UOG officials said a tuition increase was necessary because although they requested $29 million for Fiscal Year 2012, Governor Eddie Baza Calvo only identified $26 million. UOG current funding level is $27 million. Some of the shortfall, said UOG officials, needed to be captured, hence the proposed 5 percent tuition increase. Calvo’s funding cut to the university would not have been able to operate at its current funding level next year. Although the $1.36 million would stave off a tuition increase, UOG would still need to cut $1.9 million and is working toward financial belt-tightening measures.

The bill also identifies $1.5 million to pay for tax year 2010 A-status returns. A-status returns are income tax returns certified by the Department of Revenue and Taxation as ready for payment.

The $2.8 million will come from anticipated additional Section 30 funds requested from Gov. Calvo for Fiscal Year 2012, which, Pangelinan said, his office discovered only after sending a Freedom Of Information Act request to the Bureau of Budget and Management Research. Pangelinan’s request was made Sept. 6. Director John Rios responded to the FOIA request on Sept. 16.

Pangelinan blasted Calvo, saying he was less than transparent when he submitted the budget bill which included $50 million in Section 30 funds to lawmakers, not disclosing to lawmakers the additional $3 million. These funds are part of the revenue stream and included in the General Fund.

The actual Section 30 advance request amount Calvo requested from the Department of Interior was $53 million, according to a Sept. 1 letter from Calvo to Assistant Secretary of the Interior Tony Babauta.

Public Law 30-219 mandates that no later than 15 days after the end of the third quarter of each fiscal year, the governor must provide the Speaker and the Office of Finance and Budget a report of all correspondence with the United States Treasury, Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs and other entities of the U.S. government related to prior and future fiscal year estimates and reconciliation of duties, fees, and taxes (referred to as Section 30 funds), remitted prior to the beginning of the next fiscal year.

During session, Pangelinan said in spite of the law, Governor Calvo continues to circumvent it by not submitting information to the Legislature.

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