LB does not anticipate reducing personnel’s work hours
Absent any scaling down in local revenue, the Legislative Bureau does not anticipate any reduction in their personnel’s work hours, according to LB director Perry John P. Tenorio
In his report on revisions to the Appropriations and Budget Act for Fiscal Year 2023, Tenorio noted that 100% of the Legislative Bureau’s personnel cost is funded by local funds.
In reviewing Gov. Arnold I. Palacios’ revision to the fiscal year 2023 budget law, Tenorio said the Legislative Bureau is grateful that he spared the bureau and the CNMI Youth Congress from any reduction.
Tenorio’s report, dated March 13, was addressed to House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means chair Rep. Ralph N. Yumul (Ind-Saipan) and Senate Committee on Fiscal Affairs chair Sen. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota).
He said the governor’s revised projections retain the fiscal year 2023 budget law’s funding level—-$2,455,134— for the bureau’s personnel, operations, and utilities, and $42,559 for Youth Congress’ personnel and operations.
Palacios is cutting down the work schedule of some Executive Branch employees to just 72 hours starting April 24, 2023, and through the end of fiscal year 2023.
Citing that the fiscal challenges the CNMI faces impact the whole government and the community, Palacios urged the Legislature and Judiciary, as well as autonomous agencies of the government, to similarly implement cost-containment measures, particularly with respect to operations or personnel that were funded in whole or in part by the American Rescue Plan Act in fiscal year 2023.
The bureau has also postponed the hiring of personnel.
“With some clarity now, we are having to review our budgetary priorities and assess the progress toward achieving them, considering that half of the fiscal year has already passed,” the director said.
Tenorio disclosed that of the 34 positions for the bureau, 29 are filled and five5 are vacant, and only one position for the Youth Congress has been filled.
According to their analysis of the bureau’s filled positions, they have estimated that the cost per pay period is $70,407, which amounts to an annual cost of $1,830,575, he said.
Tenorio said their immediate concern is the underfunding of the bureau’s utilities budget and the operating budget for the Youth Congress. In this regard, he said, the bureau is requesting consideration in making the adjustments.
On ARPA-related matters, Tenorio said the bureau was allocated $3.56 million out of the total $482 million approved for the CNMI. He said these funds were designated for essential upgrades to the Legislature building, encompassing capital improvements, operations, and technology.
However, Tenorio said, the recent communication with acting Finance secretary Tracy B. Norita casts uncertainty on the availability of ARPA funds for the bureau. He said this decision is troubling because the bureau currently does not have enough resources in its local account to address pressing needs.
Specifically, Tenorio said, they require approximately $1.4 million for the construction of the backup generator and a new HVAC (air-conditioning) system.
In addition, he said, they need to hire an engineer to supervise the construction progress, estimated to cost around $115,000, for both projects.
He noted that in October 2021, they were forced to make an emergency purchase of a 20-ton HVAC system, which cost approximately $185,000. The unit serves the air-conditioning system of both Senate and House chambers, as well as several member offices.
Tenorio said they have to increasingly rely on the expertise of air-conditioning technicians to troubleshoot the outdated units.
“It is not a matter of if but when our current units will malfunction, necessitating costly repairs or replacements,” he added.