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Monday, April 21, 2014

OMB: Budget still at $123.4M in FY 2015
Deadline today for agencies’ budget plans

Projected revenues available for appropriation in fiscal year 2015 will remain at $123.4 million, the same level as that of fiscal year 2014, the Office of Management and Budget said. It expects all government departments, autonomous agencies and federal programs to submit their 2015 proposed budget and spending plans by today’s deadline.

The Feb. 28 deadline for departments and agencies gives Gov. Eloy S. Inos a little over a month to finalize his fiscal 2015 budget submission to the Legislature on or before his April 1 deadline.

The Inos administration seeks to find ways to realize some $19 million in savings without resorting to work hour cuts in 2015, amid a $27 million minimum payment into the Settlement Trust Fund for 2015 and government contributions of about $12 million for the Group Health and Life Insurance.

Fiscal year 2015 runs from Oct. 1, 2014, to Sept. 30, 2015.

“Revenue projections for the budget year will remain at the same level as the current year at $123.4 million,” the office of the governor’s special assistant for management and budget Virginia Villagomez said in a two-page fiscal 2015 budget call memo.

The Inos administration expects the favorable trend in the CNMI’s tourism economy in 2013 to continue in 2014 and 2015, but the settlement trust fund and health and life insurance premium payments will be a challenge.

“We must find ways to implement approximately $19 million in savings without forcing a reduction in hours and before it affects all of us. Only this can happen if we come together as a team,” OMB said.

Sen. Jovita Taimanao (Ind-Rota), chair of the Senate Fiscal Affairs Committee, meanwhile said the panel has been seeking information on agencies’ spending for previous periods that will help the committee as it works on the governor’s 2015 budget submission.

Moreover, as of yesterday, the House Ways and Means Committee has yet to receive from the Inos administration a proposed supplemental budget for fiscal year 2014.

The governor earlier said his office is preparing a proposed supplemental budget of “$8 million to $9 million,” including an additional $5 million for the annual minimum guaranteed payment to the settlement trust fund, health and life insurance plan, and possibly “$200,000 to $300,000” to refund members of the Commonwealth Government Employees Credit Union.

Budget plan

Departments and agencies are asked to scrutinize how they spend allocations toward helping the government maintain efficient public safety and other programs critical to the community’s needs.

“For fiscal year 2015, we urge you to formulate your budget and spending plans with the concept of rightsizing your areas of operations while maintaining delivery of basic public services, realigning your resources whenever a position vacancy occurs and eliminating positions that remain unfulfilled,” OMB said.

Agencies’ submission outcome, according to OMB, should demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of their program deliveries.

Programs that have similar goals and objectives are to be consolidated and/or eliminated, OMB added.

Budget submission packages due today are supposed to include the following: health insurance based on enrollees, life insurance at 1.45 percent, retirement defined benefit at 30 percent, retirement defined contribution at 4 percent, FICA [Federal Insurance Contributions Act] at 6.20 percent, and Medicare at 1.45 percent.

Departments and agencies are also required to include a budget item for utilities, including their report on how they’re able to achieve 20 percent savings in their utility consumption for their department.

Changes in the way departments submitted their fiscal year 2014 budget to the Legislature will continue in fiscal year 2015.

For example, agencies will still need to include a description of their program, their goals and objectives, a complete justification of each budgeted category, their department’s accomplishments in fiscal year 2013 and their anticipated accomplishments in 2014 and 2015.

As of yesterday, there’s no telling whether many of the agencies have already turned in their proposed spending plans.

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