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  • The San Juan Daily Star

PBA management employees threaten court action if towns take over school maintenance tasks

By The Star Staff

The Public Buildings Authority (PBA) Management Employees Association President José Berrios Rivera on Sunday again rejected the idea of allowing municipalities to take over the maintenance of island schools from the PBA and threatened to take the matter to bankruptcy court.

Berrios Rivera said the unions whose membership includes PBA employees and managers will file a motion in federal court and inform the Financial Oversight and Management Board of the agreements reached between several mayors and Education Secretary Eliezer Ramos Parés, which if they materialize, he said, will affect PBA finances and jeopardize the agreements with bondholders and the approved Debt Adjustment Plan agreed upon earlier this year.

“At this time, the Public Buildings Authority cannot afford to lose maintenance contracts, since many of these commitments are tied to the loans made with the bondholders and which were endorsed by the Federal Court,” Berrios Rivera said in a written statement. “Mayors cannot collude with the Department of Education to harm the PBA. The Association of Management Employees will meet this coming Tuesday, August 23 with the engineering executive director Ivelysse Lebrón Durán to inform her of the steps we are taking and invite her to raise her voice of alert in this action that the mayors and the secretary of the Department of Education are taking against our public corporation.”

Berrios Rivera said there is no doubt that if U.S. District Court Judge Laura Taylor Swain is informed that the Education secretary and several mayors agreed to take away from the PBA the maintenance contracts of several schools, thereby eliminating revenues from the PBA, she will see it as a violation of the debt adjustment plan.

“We have information indicating that the bondholders are already aware of the move by the Department of Education, so they will soon go to the federal bankruptcy court again, so that it can issue sanctions against the Public Buildings Authority,” he said.

As of the effective date of the debt adjustment plan in March, the commonwealth’s total funded debt obligations was reduced from some $34.3 billion of pre-petition debt to only about $7.4 billion, representing a total debt reduction of 78%. A critical component of the Commonwealth Plan of Adjustment is the post-Effective Date issuance of new general obligation (GO) bonds and contingent value instruments that provide recoveries to GO and PBA bondholders, as well as holders of clawback claims against the commonwealth and certain of its component units and instrumentalities.

Several mayors and the Education Department last week agreed to allow some municipalities to take over the maintenance of schools as most schools were not ready to be used for the start of classes this month.

The leader of the PBA management employees said the start of the 2022-2023 school semester has been an atypical one. He said a simple look at the budget assigned to the PBA shows that it has $70 million less, a sum that was used for a payment to bondholders, an issue that directly affected the materials purchasing division.

He said PBA managerial employees, who are assigned to different regions that deal with the maintenance of schools, requested materials ahead of time in order to accomplish the work at the schools so they could be ready for the start of classes. However, the delivery of materials was delayed due to a shortage in funding.

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