CLOSE to a thousand junior and senior high school students of Cebu City National Science High School (CCNSHS) might have to attend classes today without electricity.
Officials of CCNSHS sought the help of Councilor Joy Augustus Young yesterday afternoon to defer the disconnection notice that the Visayan Electric Co. (Veco) issued to the school.
The school has failed to settle P369,984.23 in its electricity bills for three months. Its last payment, amounting to P191,720.93, was made last Jan. 23.
Veco gave the school until yesterday to settle its dues.
In an interview, CCNSHS Principal Evelyn Pielago said they have upgraded several facilities in compliance with the implementation of the K-12 basic education curriculum, which drove an increase in their electricity consumption.
These upgrades included additional electronic gadgets and computer laboratories.
Pielago said that the school did not have a problem with their electricity bills before, until the Department of Education (DepEd) Cebu City Schools Division issued a notice on the matter.
This prompted her to write a letter to Mayor Tomas Osmeña through Young, who is deputy mayor for education, last Feb. 12.
“For the past years, the division office has been paying for our monthly electricity expense considering that our MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) budget per month is only P95,000,” reads a portion of the letter.
The MOOE is supposed to be spent on activities and necessities such as water and electricity, which support learning programs and help maintain a safe and healthy environment.
Pielago said that the school received a notice issued by DepEd Cebu City Schools Division Superintendent Dr. Bianito Dagatan, informing them that the division office will no longer pay for CCNSHS’s electric consumption.
Because of this, the school has asked the City Government to shoulder their monthly electricity bills.
The City Government, however, can’t grant the school’s request.
“We’re (City Government) not allowed to pay for electricity. It’s easier said than done. That means that we have to go to the Commission on Audit (COA) and have it approved first. COA might disallow it. You can’t just tell COA that you have no money when you have an MOOE,” Young said.
The councilor also called the attention of DepEd to address the matter.
“DepEd is putting up all these technologies in science high and these eat up a lot of electricity. This is something the division office should consider,” he said.
“I am not going to risk something, which I might end up paying for years from now. I’m not saying, ‘No, the City does not want to help.’ I’m just saying that there is a COA memorandum. They should find a way to lobby with DepEd,” he said.
Young suggested that the DepEd Central Office consult the schools on how much their utility bills would cost to ensure that the MOOE will be enough to cover expenses.
The Local Government Code empowers cities, towns and provinces to collect a Special Education Fund, equivalent to one percent of the assessed value of real properties in its jurisdiction.
However, strict conditions govern the use of the fund.
It can be used to build or fix school buildings, buy equipment, support research, pay for books and periodicals, and support sports development activities. It can also be used to operate and maintain public schools.
Under a joint circular issued in 2017 by the Department of Education, Department of Budget and Management, and Department of the Interior and Local Government, the SEF may be used to pay “for expenses pertaining to the operation of schools, which may include utilities and communication expenses.” (With IDA)