2013 budget tabled, possible six-month extension for current budget
By Marley Shebala
WINDOW ROCK, September 13, 2012
But the legislation to continue the 2012 budget has not even started moving towards the Council because of several unanswered questions by its sponsor, Budge & Finance Committee Chairperson LoRenzo Bates (Nenahnezad/Newcomb/San Juan/T'iistoh Sikaad/Tsé Daa K'aan/Upper Fruitland).
The Council's tabling of the proposed tribal government's 2013 budget of $543.6 million on Monday prompted the need for proposed legislation to continue the 2012 budget.
In their tabling action, the Council directed that the proposed 2013 budget return to them by March 31, 2013.
They also directed the B&F to prepare legislation for them to approve to continue the 2012 budget for six months.
Bates explained on Tuesday that the B&F Committee has an existing proposed resolution to continue the current 2012 budget for six more months and would send it to the Council if any and all questions regarding the proposed resolution are answered.
Otherwise Bates said the B&F Committee would have to draft new legislation, which would have to posted on the Council website for a five-day public comment period before committee approval and recommendation to the Council.
The legislative process also calls for the continuing resolution to go before the Naa'bik'iyati Committee before reaching the Council.
On Aug. 30, the B&F Committee drafted legislation to continue the 2012 budget for six months in the event that the Council tabled or voted down the proposed 2013 budget.
But when the proposed legislation to continue the 2012 budget returned to the B&F Committee on Sept. 4, the committee removed it from its agenda because they felt that it was sending a message to the Council to disapprove or table the proposed 2013 budget.
By tribal law, the B&F Committee develops and recommends an annual budget to the Council for their review, possible amendments, approval, disapproval or tabling.
Bates, who sponsored the B&F Committee's proposed 2013 budget legislation to the Council, said he gave a "list" of questions to the Office of the Controller, Office of Management and Budget, Department of Justice and Office of Legislative Counsel, who began meeting on his questions on Tuesday.
One of his primary questions was whether proposed layoffs of 27 tribal government workers would occur with the continuing resolution.
Bates also questioned whether the proposed continuing resolution would carryover the balance of between $600,000 and $800,000 in unappropriated 2012 funds, which was part of the proposed 2013 budget.
He was also concerned about $42 million in unspent division and program 2012 budgets that would have been carried over into the 2013 budget by the proposed 2013 comprehensive budget.
The $42 million is divided up among Head Start, Division of Transportation, Department of Water Resources, gaming, investments and the renovation of Administration Building No. 1.
Bates noted that access to financial documents in Administration Building No. 1 was recently approved by the Window Rock District Court, which now allows a legally mandated audit of the tribal government's 2011 budget to be completed during the six months that the proposed 2013 budget is tabled.
He said that one of the reasons he supported the Council's tabling of the proposed 2013 budget was because the proposed budget included the waiver of the tribal law for the Council to review and accept the audit of the previous annual operating budget before approving a new annual budget.
Bates explained that the audit of the 2011 budget couldn't be done because most of the financial records were in Administration Building No. 1, which was under a court-ordered lock down until recently.
He said that he also supported the tabling action because the six months would also allow the Council to finally develop and approve a five-year plan for the Navajo Reservation's capital improvement projects.
The proposed 2013 budget included a waiver of the tribal law ordering the Council to approve a five-year CIP plan.
The Council has been waiving that particular law since 2007.
According to the 1985 tribal law establishing the Permanent Trust Fund, 95 percent of the interest earned by the trust fund could be used after 20 years but first the Council had to approve a five-year plan. The remaining five percent had to be re-deposited into the PTF.
In 2000, the Council established the Local Governance Trust Fund. In 2007, 50 percent of the Permanent Trust Fund interest or fund income was deposited into the LGTF for use by the chapters, which left 45 percent to be spent under the five-year plan.
But Delegate Russell Begaye (Shiprock), who was among the five votes opposing the tabling of the proposed 2013 budget, said that six months was not enough time for the people and communities, not just the Council, to develop a five-year plan.
Begaye, who sits on the Council's Law and Order Committee, added that the continuation of the 2012 budget would financially hurt the Division of Public Safety, which is primarily funded by federal contracts that require the division to spend its own funds and then be reimbursed with federal dollars.
He predicted that the division, which includes police officers and emergency services, would be hurting financially near the end of the six months.
The B&F Committee is expected to meet next week to discuss proposed legislation to continue the 2012 budget.