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House panel looks into Rota’s budget request

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THE House Committee on Ways and Means held a budget hearing  on Rota Tuesday to discuss the fiscal year 2021 proposals for the island submitted by the municipal government and the governor.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Ivan A. Blanco, said in an interview that they met with Rota Mayor Efraim Atalig and each of his resident directors.

“We wanted to discuss with the mayor his proposal of $10.5 million for FY 2021 versus the governor’s proposal of $4.7 million. That’s a [$5.8 million] cut. That’s huge,” Blanco said.

Mayor Atalig said that he understands the current economic situation of the Commonwealth, Blanco added.

“[The mayor] is pleased that the governor was able to keep some funding for personnel, but his concern was that a lot of the money that was for ‘All Others’ — which will be for contracts, office supplies, fuel for vehicles, and whatnot — those are zeroed out. A lot of it was gone, so his concern was, ‘We have people in the office working, but what are they going to work with?’”

Blanco said the “All Others” portion of the Rota budget is for, among other things, the Division of Parks and Recreation beautification projects, which require funding for equipment maintenance, fuel and communications.

 

Members of the House Standing Committee on Ways and Means on Tuesday inspect unmarked Department of Public Safety vehicles on Rota. Photo by Rep. Ivan A. Blanco

Mayor Atalig has asked for funding that would allow the Rota offices to function, Blanco added.

The Legislature fiscal analyst, David S. Demapan, said the governor’s proposal underfunds a majority of the operations of the municipality, including cutting Historic Preservation by 99%; Police, Agriculture, and Procurement & Supply by 98%; Commerce by 95%; Sports and Recreation by 94%; Revenue and Taxation by 93%; and Labor by 91%.

But it was also reported that the municipality also expects to receive additional funding from the Tobacco Settlement Fund amounting to $46,000, as well as at least $300,000 from the Marianas Visitors Authority Trust Fund.

Moreover, it expects to receive earmarked funds amounting to $17,875 from the Student Education Program, and $264,920 from the Solid Waste Revolving Fund.

Meanwhile, as a result of a nearly 50% reduction in funding amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Rota has incurred a budget overrun of $873,960.

The municipality is proposing a $10.5 million budget for FY 2021, of which $8.8 million, or 84%, is for personnel that include 321 FTEs; $1.5 million, or 14%, for operations; and $181,000 for utilities.

The governor’s FY 2021 budget proposal of $4.7 million for the Rota municipality would allot roughly $4.2 million for personnel, about $354,000 for operations, and a little over $180,000 for utilities.

This would mean a 52% cut in the budget proposal of the municipality for personnel, 77% for operations, and 1% for utilities.

Today, Thursday, the committee will conduct hearings for the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Finance at 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively.

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