The Marianas Visitors Authority will be adding $13 million to the $3.2 million that MVA originally asked for as its budget for fiscal year 2022.
Speaking at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing Tuesday afternoon, MVA board chair Viola Alepuyo said what they would be requesting is essentially a reinstatement of the fiscal year 2018 budget level amount of approximately $15.7 million.
Alepuyo said this is broken as $5 million for destination enhancement; $2 million for sustainability; $5 million for offshore offices, which would include China, Korea, and others, and $ 1 million for MVA staff and equipment.
“In order for us to do our job effectively, we need MVA up to where we are and so that’s a total of $13 million in addition to the $3.2 million that we originally requested,” she said.
Alepuyo disclosed their planned budget amendment request after committee chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) asked MVA how much additional money they need and how it would be used.
Alepuyo and MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo and other MVA officials who attended the budget hearing could not provide the figures right away, prompting Manglona to call for a five-minute recess to allow MVA officials talk among themselves and put some numbers together.
When the hearing resumed, Alepuyo shared the figures they want to submit in their amended budget request.
Alepuyo said just in comparison, they currently issued a request for proposal for a desk audit as they feel that there are some positions at MVA that need to be updated.
“For example, for all incoming passengers into the CNMI, whether it be for tourists or residents, they have to fill out a form, like literally a piece of paper that is submitted to the Department of Customs, and two MVA staff have to go out there, collect them daily, and then scan the results, scan the forms,” Alepuyo said.
The MVA chair said they believe that they need to go paperless so that they could have that information readily available—not just for their office but also offshore offices and with the municipalities that want to see the data of visitors coming in or even the Legislature prior to budgetary periods.
Alepuyo said they’re hoping that a desk audit would reveal what positions are obsolete, what positions need to be updated, and how MVA can better serve the community to bring in more tourists by going paperless.
For comparison, she cited the Guam Visitors Bureau, which has more employees and their annual budget for their employees alone is about $3.3 million. Currently, she said, MVA has 34 employees with an annual budget of $1.6 million.
Alepuyo said they anticipate the desk audit to reveal that they need more people with Information Technology experience and that would require them to pay more in salaries.
She cited as an example a notice for a job vacancy announcement they had for a graphic artist and the announcement indicates the salary. Alepuyo said 10 people applied, but none of whom had the minimum experience necessary and that’s because they’re not paying enough for graphic artist with the requirements that they need.
Manglona urged MVA to submit an amended budget proposal as his committee is expecting a revised budget from the administration come July 1.
“So if you can also provide the committee with your additional request come July 1, that would help the members review your request and see how we can assist,” Manglona said.
Early this year, Iakopo said the passage of the fiscal yeart 2021 Budget Act provides an appropriation for the MVA of $2.1 million, an 84% reduction from the original FY 2020 Budget Act.
Iakopo said this year’s budget provides $526,181 for personnel and the remaining $1,671,230 for all others.