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EDITORIAL: Senators must support Speaker in opposing UOG tuition increase

Editor’s Note: Kandit News Group remains committed to the taxpayers of our island by reporting on any governmental matters that adversely affect the livelihood of our people. We firmly believe in the basic principle that our Government is owned by the people and that every single penny of funds used to operate the government is paid for by the people. Transparency in government spending is at the cornerstone of the Kandit News News Group’s primary purposes. We include in our reporting decisions the importance of encouraging public discussions for the purposes of fostering alternatives and solutions. We have reported our findings about numerous government of Guam agencies and our recent Freedom of Information Act request submitted to UOG is indicative of our passion to arrive at alternatives when decisions by the university’s leadership comes into question. We owe that much to our audience and those that have been supportive of our growth as we continue to move forward in becoming a staple in our island’s news media.


Krise

By Troy Torres


Monday during a legislative budget hearing, University of Guam president Thomas Krise told senators there would be an increase in tuition scheduled for this coming August. This tuition increase was included in the university’s budget request presented to senators. This is no different than an increase in taxes since 100 percent of the financial burden will be on the shoulders of not only students, but many of their families. It is important to note the university is justifying this tuition increase to fund the salaries of its personnel. It appears no where in this tuition increase request is even a penny being allocated to any capital improvements.



Terlaje

During the hearing, we noted Speaker Therese Terlaje made several statements that questioned the timing of this tuition increase. She stated on the record “I just think of all the things to increase this year, that should not be it.” She further stated on the record “…so it’s pretty much on the students that are going to be paying for the increase.” We support the Speaker’s insight and are hopeful that all other senators follow her lead in not approving this tuition increase.


The timing of this financial burden on students and many of their families comes at a time when Guam’s unemployment rate is the highest in history. Earlier this week, Guam Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Christine Baleto was quoted as saying “We’re facing 19% unemployment. If we don’t support our businesses now, we’re not gonna have jobs for these guys to return to when the pandemic unemployment assistance runs out”.


Also just last week, a member of the GVB board of directors echoed similar sentiments as Baleto. This GVB board member expressed concern that “…if businesses that support the tourism industry do not reopen soon, then the tourism industry will not be able to provide employment for our people.” You simply just have to take a walk around Tumon and can clearly see it has become a virtual ghost town. Closed restaurants, closed bars, closed beach water sport concession stands and the once filled beaches of Tumon by tourists… gone. Students make up a large percentage of those who lost their jobs as a result of the coronavirus.


We reported yesterday and posted our Freedom of Information Act request to the university that will provide us with detailed information about the salary and benefits received by President Krise, all paid for by the taxpayers of Guam.


Krise reportedly lives in the most expensive condominium building on Guam. Whether you - the taxpayer, via UOG - pays for his stay there is part of our investigation. More on that in the coming days. Back to the condo - it is located along the beach front of Tumon Bay with a panoramic view of the city and horizon. According to public information relative to the sales of Tumon condominiums, the most recent sale of a unit at this condominium was a sale for a price in excess of $2,700,000. We believe the taxpayers should know the details of not only Krise’s salary but the benefit of his housing allowance especially now, when cost-cutting measures at the university must be considered first instead of an increase in tuition.

With all the economic, business and finance brain power at his finger tips, we have to ask ourselves if Krise consulted any professors at the School of Business & Public Administration in the decision to increase tuition at this time. Did Krise simply consider what is right before his eyes every time he drives to and leaves that Tumon condominium? Did Krise even take a moment to look at the staffing pattern and salaries of certain university personnel in order to consider cuts in personnel costs instead of increasing tuition to fund personnel costs. We all need to ask ourselves, how and who are behind this tuition increase at a time when students and many of their families are struggling financially? If any organization should know the adverse economic, business and financial impact of a tuition increase it would be the university itself.


To be consistent with our policy of fostering public discussions, we want to provide some examples that will open the door to such discussions and to arriving at an alternative to an increase in tuition. This is especially the case since senators were told at the budgetary hearing that the tuition increase was solely going to be used to fund personnel cost. The staffing patterns and salaries of every employee of every agency including the the university’s is public information and easily seen on line. In looking at the university’s staffing pattern, it is very easy to cut at least 5 percent of salaries of certain employees of the University instead of increasing tuition by 5 percent. In calculating numerous salary cuts by 5 percent, there truly is no real burden compared to the burden placed on students and some of their families with an increase in tuition.



So let us start at the top and view the salary (without benefits) of President Krise compared to other high ranking government officials:

  • President Thomas Krise: Base Salary of $210,000

  • Governor Lou Leon Guerrero: Base Salary of $90,000

  • Lt. Governor Josh Tenorio: Base Salary of $85,000

Something just does not feel right when you consider that Krise’s base salary is $30,000 more than the combined salaries of BOTH the governor and lieutenant governor.


Let us now look at another comparison of salaries between the salary of Krystal Paco-San Augustin (the Communications Director of the entire government) and Jonas Macapinlac (the Chief of Marketing and Communications for UOG). I am particularly sensitive and empathetic to Krystal since I held the very same position for over four years during the Calvo Administration. I know first hand just how difficult that job is which is widely known to be the hardest public relations position in the government of Guam. Even the resumes and experience in public relations and media management between Krystal and Jonas show an obvious disparity in salaries.

  • Krystal Paco-San Augustin: Base Salary of $75,000

  • Jonas Macapinlac: Base Salary of $88,829


Macapinlac

Let’s talk about this for a quick minute. It’s one thing for Mr. Macapinlac to be paid $13,829 more per year than the director of communications, who outranks him and works in a tougher, more demanding and stressful job. It’s quite another that he is paid $3,829 more than Lt. Gov. Josh Tenorio, and only $1,171 less than Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero. As a matter of fact, if you add in benefits, the UOG chief of marketing and communications is paid more than the governor of Guam, who has been leading a pandemic response while UOG was marketing nothing.


Let that sink in.


These are just a handful of examples senators must consider in opposing the tuition increase. The Speaker has let her intentions known on the record. In fairness to students and some of their families, we encourage all senators to not approve the tuition increase. The balance of hardships weighs heavily on the side of the students and some of their families.


In bringing this article to a close, I want to share parts of an interesting publication by the International Institute of Directors & Managers titled “What Leading By Example Really Means.” One particular part of this publication stood out to me when considering the need for steps to be initiated to support an alternative to the tuition increase, It states:


“The ‘lead by example’ cliché is a cliché because it is true-people are

influenced by our actions. Our life as a leader would be easier if we

could say all the right things and know that that those words would

significantly influence our team. While that would be easier, it is

also unrealistic. Although our words matter, what we do matters far

more.”


So let us consider as an alternative to the tuition increase, that the leadership of the University of Guam lead by example. It would definitely make a bold and strong statement if instead of the tuition increase, Krise voluntarily took a pay cut of at least 5 percent. This would still have him earning substantially more compared to the Governor and Lt. Governor.


In addition, it would demonstrate leadership by example if Krise also voluntarily moved out of his current condominium into a more modest yet comfortable living arrangement, if indeed the taxpayers are footing that bill. There are many options for other condominiums that would result in a reduction in Krise’s housing allowance thus saving the university even more in personnel costs.



James Sellman, Dean, College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

Last, how about Krise also taking the initiative to cut the salary of Jonas Macapinlac, the Chief of Marketing and Communications for UOG? And it isn’t just Mr. Macapinlac. There are a host of useless administrators, wonks, and credit card monsters at UOG whom we, as taxpayers, just shouldn’t be paying. This point does not even need discussion. The answer to this question is quite obvious.

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