Tinian Mayor Ramon Dela Cruz wants to meet this week with the Tinian Legislative Delegation to work on an amended local budget law over what he describes as “several errors in judgment” in Tinian Local Ordinance 18-1.
Dela Cruz said that among the budget issues that need to be addressed are the inconsistencies in the Tinian Municipal Scholarship appropriation and administrative procedures, the need for funeral assistance as a community service, as well as the funding for private cleaning of restrooms in public parks.
The latter, according to the mayor, has resolved the longstanding problem of proper restroom maintenance for visitors.
The mayor has also requested fulltime employees “so we can place more of our people to work.”
“Bottom line is we need to get together [this] week and hammer out an amended budget act that will meet the municipality’s real needs… It is unfortunate that some of our municipal employees have suffered from this budget issue,” the mayor said in his letter to Tinian Legislative Delegation chair Sen. Frank Borja (Ind-Tinian).
Borja could not be reached for comment as of press time yesterday.
Another Tinian delegation member said he is open to a meeting with the mayor, the delegation and others to discuss the issues with the newly-signed local budget act.
Tinian was on a partial shutdown from Oct. 1 to 8 over a lack of an approved local budget.
Fifteen Tinian municipal employees were furloughed and did not return to work until Oct. 9, after the late Oct. 8 afternoon signing of a $3.841-million local budget for fiscal year 2014.
But the Inos administration, through acting governor Jude Hofschneider at the time, had reservations about the local budget measure.
Hofschneider’s greatest concern is an over $2 million discrepancy between fiscal year 2013’s projected revenues and actual income collected.
“We are all aware of the hardships caused on Tinian when the Dynasty Hotel and Casino was shut down for an extended period of time last year. However, we cannot afford to simply turn a blind eye to the fact that Tinian’s economy may face similar problems in 2014,” he told the delegation and the council.
The Tinian mayor, in his letter to the Tinian Legislative Delegation chairman, said, “It seems we have hit our first bump in the road during your chairmanship. As with all marriages, it is over money.”
But the mayor traced their working relationship since 1981.
“I have no doubt we will resolve the current issues quickly and amicably so that we can move on to the overriding issues of social and economic development for [Tinian],” Dela Cruz told Borja.
The Tinian mayor also wanted to clarify some issues.
He said when he met with the Tinian Casino Gaming Control Commission and the Tinian Legislative Delegation last year, he indicated that the projected revenues for 2013 “were too high.”
“I recommended a more conservative approach. However, the TCGCC insisted on the higher revenue projection,” he said.
The mayor also said there were “some legitimate excuses” for the lack of coordination between the Casino Commission, the Delegation and his office this year.
He said the Tinian Municipal Treasurer received only over $1.579 million for fiscal year 2013. The projected revenues at the time were over $3 million.
Dela Cruz said of that amount received, only $770,136.10 came from taxes earned on casino winnings.
He said both the Council and the Delegation were consistently apprised of the “poor showings from Dynasty.”
“It was impossible for the Commission to create a reliable revenue projection for [fiscal year] 2014 with the Dynasty showing $0.0 winnings for the final nine months of fiscal year 2013. By Sept. 1, we agreed that there was a good chance the Dynasty would pull out of its slump, as has proved true over the last two months,” the mayor said.
Dela Cruz also said he asked the Gaming Commission to give him their best estimate on revenues so that they could submit a budget before the Sept. 30 deadline for passage and adoption.
“This is where the system broke down,” the mayor told Borja.
The mayor said on Sept. 6, the Gaming Commission sent to the Municipal Treasurer a two-page memo with a revenue projection of $3.841 million for 2014 as recommended and concurred by Tinian Dynasty.
Dela Cruz said the mayor’s office transmitted its proposed personnel and operations budget to the Delegation chairman on Sept. 11.
At the time, the Commission also took their draft budget directly to the Delegation, bypassing the mayor’s office “again,” Dela Cruz said.
“A few days later, the governor signed the CNMI budget bill, leaving two weeks for action on the Tinian municipal budget. I expected the delegation to arrive on Tinian to consult on the budget shortly after that. But it did not happen. So a budget was adopted that was not well coordinated,” the Tinian mayor added.