Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 19 Jul 2018 12am

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    Tuesday, July 17, 2018-7:45:08A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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Finance needs $8M for personnel’s salary adjustments

TO pay for the salary increases of its employees, the Department of Finance is asking for a fiscal year 2019 budget of $8.1 million, an increase of $2.9 million compared to its FY 2018 budget.

The governor is proposing a $7.5 million budget for Finance in FY 2019.

Finance Secretary Larrisa Larson said they have hired more staff even as the CNMI government implemented a salary increase for all government employees last year.

However, she said these salary adjustments were funded by hotel and occupancy tax payments and not by the general fund.

For FY 2019, Larson said they are requesting that funding for the salaries come from the department’s annual budget.

She said they also need additional funding in order to conduct more training  for department employees.

“We want to enhance the skills of our employees as most of them are new on the job. We really have to push for training,” Larson said.

House Ways and Means Commitee Chairman Angel Demapan commended Finance for doing a good job in collecting revenues.

He said “embedding” the salary adjustments in the department’s budget will mean that the hotel and occupancy taxes that paid for the salaries can now be spent on other things.

 “This is the department that is essentially the financial steward of the commonwealth’s economy, and I always believe that in order for us to properly manage our expenses and increase our collections we need to invest in personnel who go out there and do their work which is collect taxes,” Demapan said.

“We also need to invest in the department’s capacity to access data and make sure that taxes and other fees are collected. In jurisdictions across the nation, the biggest problem is often with taxes that are owed the government but not  actually collected. It happens everywhere, so we need to turn our attention to beefing up those collections.”

Demapan said Finance has “done a wonderful job this current fiscal year with tax collection, and that was the main reason tax refunds could be released early. This year is an indication of the work they are doing…. For the next fiscal year, I don’t expect anything less, but rather more tax collections.”

At the House budget hearing on Wednesday, Capt. Jesse Atalig of the Division of Customs said they seized a total of $180,000 in undeclared currency. He said most of this was in dollars or Asian currencies.

At present, he said, they have a total of eight K9s, six for the Division of Customs and two for the Department of Public Safety. Each dog costs $12,000, he added.