Members of the Tinian and Aguiguan Legislative Delegation passed yesterday morning a $3.841-million municipal budget bill for fiscal year 2014 but the furloughed 15 Tinian workers since Oct. 1 are not expected to return to work until at least early next week.
This is because a concurrence by the three-member Tinian Municipal Council chaired by Antonio S.N. Borja is still needed, and they have yet to hold a special session.
Borja said a special council session could be held this afternoon, Saturday or Monday, before the bill goes to the governor for action.
Today marks the fourth day of a partial shutdown on Tinian over a lack of a new municipal budget by Oct. 1, the start of fiscal year 2014.
The furloughed employees derive their salaries from casino industry revenues on Tinian. Most government personnel on Tinian are funded by CNMI general fund, and they are not affected by the furloughs.
While some Tinian officials blamed each other yesterday for the situation, all parties agreed in the end to work together to ensure the furloughed employees could return to work next week.
Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz said yesterday that his office was not able to send their proposed budget to the delegation until a few weeks ago, owing to the lack of revenue generated from Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino for some seven months.
Dela Cruz said this contributed to the delay, and the delegation also needed time to go over the separate submissions from the mayor’s office and the Tinian Gaming Control Commission before passing a local budget bill.
Rep. Trenton Conner (Ind-Tinian) reiterated yesterday that the other factors in the delay were lawmakers’ focus on the CNMI-wide budget for 2014 and the Retirement Fund settlement agreement.
The mayor and the delegation—which consists of chair Sen. Frank Borja (Ind-Tinian), Sen. Frank Cruz (R-Tinian), Sen. Joaquin Borja (Ind-Tinian), and Conner—met in an executive session prior to the vote on the spending measure, Tinian Local Bill 18-1.
By a vote of 4-0, the Tinian delegation passed the local budget bill at 11:02am yesterday.
It appropriates $3.841 million in projected revenues from Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino for the personnel and operations of the Tinian Gaming Control Commission, Tinian Municipal Treasury, and the Office of the Mayor of Tinian and Aguiguan for fiscal year 2014.
Of the $3.841 million in anticipated local funds, $2.782 million is projected to come from casino tax revenue; $1 million from casino license fees; $23,000 from employee fees; $20,250 from gaming device fees; and $15,000 from casino service industry.
The 2014 proposed Tinian municipal budget of $3.841 million is a bit higher than the $3.5-million local Tinian budget law in 2013.
Press secretary Angel Demapan, when asked for comment yesterday, said this is “concerning because this should have been a priority to act on, especially given that this year’s [CNMI] government budget was enacted into law earlier than previous years.”
“Now, the municipal employees [on] Tinian are caught in [a] situation where many of them cannot report to work until the delegation and the municipal council approve a spending plan that still needs to be reviewed and approved by the governor,” Demapan told Saipan Tribune.
He said at this point, without yet having an opportunity to see the local budget bill, it is impossible to tell whether the bill will be enacted right away or whether concerns will arise upon the governor’s review.
This comes at a time when the U.S. government has also been shut down for the first time in 17 years over a lack of a new spending measure to keep federal government offices open on Oct. 1 and onwards.
Many of the furloughed Tinian municipal employees are among the least-paid—those receiving $16,000 or a little more a year. Exempted from the furloughs are Casino Commission personnel and the municipal treasurer, among others.
Tinian also had a partial shutdown last year, with municipal employees ordered not to work for one day.