Farmington — The Navajo Nation Council will head into session Tuesday to decide the fate of the tribe's proposed fiscal year 2014 budget.
The proposed budget is about $571.6 million and includes $174.2 million in tribal revenues and $397.3 million in federal, state and private funding, as recommended by the Budget and Finance Committee.
The budget is divided among three branches based on recommendations from Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, Speaker Johnny Naize and Chief Justice Herb Yazzie to fund the divisions, departments, programs and services under their supervision.
It is recommended that the Executive Branch receive $516.8 million, the Legislative Branch $15.6 million and the Judicial Branch $14.9 million.
Tribal law mandates that the council have an annual operating budget in place 20 days before the end of the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30.
"It's on schedule as far as meeting the deadline," Budget and Finance Committee chairman LoRenzo Bates said.
The legislation containing the budget was recommended by the Budget and Finance Committee Aug. 19 and was posted on the council's website for five days to allow public comments.
That process was completed Aug. 25 and since then it has received "do pass" recommendations from the Budget and Finance and the Naabik'íyáti committees while on its way to the council.
The council has the authority to amend it, approve it as is, not approve it, or table it and return it to the Budget and Finance Committee for further changes.
If the council approves it, the budget goes to Shelly for review. He has ten days to sign it, veto it or use his line-item veto authority.
According to tribal law, line-item vetoes are not subject to override by the council.
Throughout the budget hearings, which were held in mid-August, Bates said the standing committee members asked more questions about how to fund the tribe's divisions and departments because money is getting "tighter and tighter" and the tribe is attempting to spend money more effectively and efficiently.
But the challenge has not been easy.
Erny Zah, Shelly's spokesman, said the tribe may have to eliminate 92 positions.
When the Budget and Finance Committee was drafting the legislation Aug. 19, they recommended an allocation of $2.9 million from the personnel lapse fund for the Navajo Area Agency on Aging, which is under orders by the executive branch to reinstate 40-hour work weeks.
This allocation was made after the Health, Education and Human Services Committee, which oversees the Division of Health, made a similar recommendation during its budget hearing.
The personnel lapse fund is designated to pay step increases or merit bonuses for tribal employees.
Rosalyn Curtis, director for the Agency on Aging, said senior citizen center supervisors work 72 hours while cooks and drivers work 64 hours per pay period.
This reduction in hours has caused a decrease in services at centers across the reservation, she said.
"We're not only a meal program," Curtis said, adding that the centers offer activities such as health education and exercise to the elderly.
Bates, who represents Nenahnezad, Newcomb, San Juan, T'iistoh Sikaad, Tsé Daa K'aan and Upper Fruitland chapters, highlighted two initiatives included in the proposed budget.
The first would provide $3 million for the decentralization project, which is being spearheaded by the Division of Community Development. It focuses on providing more services locally by moving the Local Governance Support Centers into Administrative Services Areas.
The second would use a percentage of the set aside for the Permanent Trust Fund to pay debt service for capital improvement and infrastructure development projects.
The council created the Permanent Trust Fund in 1985 and it has grown to about $1.3 billion.
Tribal law mandates that 12 percent of annual tribal revenues go into the fund. For fiscal year 2014, the set aside is projected at $28.2 million.
The council cannot dip into the principle of the Permanent Trust Fund without developing a five-year plan and Navajo voters must approve spending from the fund in a referendum.