Rep. Tina Sablan: MVA employees furloughed, but managing director will get a raise

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REPRESENTATIVE Tina Sablan on Tuesday expressed concerned about the Marianas Visitors Authority budget proposal for fiscal year 2021.

“It has been reported that the [MVA board of directors] approved a raise for you, Ms. Iakopo, at the last board meeting. Is that accurate?” Sablan asked MVA Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo during the budget hearing conducted by the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Iakopo responded, “Yes, that is accurate. However, it has not been… I have not taken the raise yet… We’re still processing the contract.”

When asked by Sablan about the amount of the salary increase, Iakopo said it was a $5,000 raise.

Her annual salary is $60,000, Variety learned.

The House Committee on Ways and Means conducts  a budget hearing on Tuesday. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol 

Sablan then asked Iakopo how can the pay raise be justified when MVA has furloughed more than half of its staff and no one else within the agency will receive a salary increase.

Iakopo said the pay raise  was a decision made by the MVA board and not herself. She added that she is scheduled to meet with the board as part of an evaluation process.

During the budget hearing, Iakopo reported that of the 34 total MVA employees, 23 have been furloughed.

“We don’t have enough staff. We would need to bring our staff back in order to provide 100% full marketing and promotional programs,” she added.

MVA is funded primarily by hotel occupancy tax collections.

For FY 2021, MVA expects to receive close to $9 million. The government still owes MVA $8.7 million in hotel occupancy tax collections from previous  years.

Rep. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero, for his part, noted that the tourism industry remains at a standstill because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But Iakopo said Asiana Airlines will move forward with an eight-flight trial period next month, and that Skymark Airlines will resume its flight service on Sept. 30.

No MVA board members were present for the budget hearing on Tuesday.

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