Proposed budget would reinstate threatened jobs

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, August 22, 2013

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T wenty-five employees of the Navajo Nation's senior centers slated for layoff in fiscal 2014 will keep their jobs if the Nation's proposed 2014 budget is adopted.

The Budget and Finance Committee recommended an allocation of $2.9 million from the personnel lapse fund for the Navajo Area Agency on Aging, which would reinstate the positions. Previously, the agency had cut the positions to balance a shrinking budget.

This allocation was proposed after the Health, Education and Human Services Committee recommended supplemental funding for the NAAA. The HEHSC oversees the Division of Health and the aging program is one of its programs.

In February 2011, the Council approved a law that protected outstanding balances in the personnel lapse fund during the fiscal year, by allowing those funds and vacant positions to be carried over into the following fiscal year.

The law also placed a moratorium on any future budget revisions or reallocations until the ceilings for projected annual general wage adjustment, step increase and other salary adjustments were reached.

A two-thirds vote of the Council is needed to approve any other use of the fund or to amend the 2011 resolution.

The proposed Navajo Nation 2014 operating budget is up for public review on the Navajo Nation Council's website.

The $571.6 million budget is what the Budget and Finance Committee is recommending to the Council for its approval next month.

The Budget and Finance Committee finalized its budget recommendations Monday and directed its staff to post the proposed budget on the website immediately, which was done at 6:05 p.m. at www.navajonationcouncil.org.

The proposed operating budget includes $174.2 million in tribal revenues and $397.3 million in federal, state and private funding.

The $571.6 million was divided up among the three branches after the three branch chiefs - Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, Speaker Johnny Naize and Chief Justice Herb Yazzie - agreed on the amount of revenues that each branch would receive.


If adopted, the Executive Branch would get $516.8 million to fund the executive offices, divisions and programs.

The Legislative Branch would receive $15.6 million and Judicial Branch at $14.9 million.

Fixed Costs receives $20.2 million to pay for services such as the annual audit, insurance premiums, utilities, telecommunications, radio communication, equipment, furniture, and building maintenance.

Capital Improvement Funds receives $4 million to be used at each chapter's discretion and not used for recurring expenses.

The proposed 2014 budget also includes $3 million for the Decentralization Project and $1.7 million for rehabilitation of Administration Buildings No. 1 and 2.

Administration Building No. 1 has been closed since September 2011 while Building No. 2 closed December 2012 after mold was found in the buildings.

In its recommended allocation of $3 million for the decentralization project, the Budget and Finance Committee assigned the Division of Community Development to spearhead the Decentralization Project with the goal of transiting the Local Governance Support Centers into Administrative Services Areas to improve service delivery to chapters.

The fiscal year is Oct. 1 to Sept 30 of the following year.

Tribal law mandates the Council to have an annual operating budget in place 20 days before the end of the current budget year.

Under tribal law, the legislation outlining the proposed 2014 comprehensive budget was posted Aug. 19 on the Council's website for public comment.

The initial 5-day commenting period is open until Aug. 25 but comments can continue to be submitted as the legislation makes its way through the legislative process before it reaches the Council in September.

The Council has the authority to amend it, approve it as is, not approve it, or table it and return it to the Budget and Finance Committee for further changes.

If the Council approves it, it goes to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly for review.

The president has 10 days to sign the budget, veto it or use the line-item veto authority.

Line-item vetoes are not subject to override by the Council, according to tribal law.