AMERICA SAMOA SUBMITS $336 MILLION BUDGET

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Some 6,000 government jobs in fiscal 2010

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Sept. 12, 2009) - The American Samoa government is proposing more than 6,000 positions to be funded in the fiscal year 2010 budget for all three branches with 40 percent of the jobs to be funded with local revenues.

Total budget proposal is $335.89 million, which is 2 percent or $5.96 million less than FY 2009.

Gov. Togiola Tulafono, in his cover letter to the Fono leadership that accompanied the budget book, states that in carrying out the activities reflective of these proposed expenditures, 6,265 positions have been funded for FY 2010; with 1,037.5 contract employees and 5,227.5 permanent or career employees.

A 5.8 percent rise is noted in the number of contract employees with a 1.44 percent decline observed in the number of permanent positions, he said. A table, which is part of the letter, provides the number of career and contract employees funded by local (40 percent), federal (32 percent) and enterprise (27 percent) funds.

For informational purposes and better understanding of the financial plan, the average salary for each funding source is: local funding $23,500; federal funding $20,021; and Enterprise Funds $21,104. The overall average salary for American Samoa Government is $21,661, the governor explained. (This issue has been raised in past years during budget reviews by the Fono.)

Togiola said programs recommended for funding under the Special Programs budget category are traditional projects to address special needs which are not incorporated in the other budget areas.

Also in the Special Programs category are funds "earmarked to defray the cost of hosting the Constitutional Convention...added as a new project with the duration tied to the completion of activities connected with this significant event," the governor wrote.

The letter itself didn’t outline the specific earmarks for the Constitutional Convention, which the governor has said publicly that he plans to call in November or December this year.

Togiola said the territory is heading into a period of financial turmoil precipitated by the pending closure of COS Samoa Packing at the end of this month.

"This event will forge the curtailment of over 2,000 jobs causing the loss of [an] estimated $20 million in purchasing power and reflecting lost sales to the private sector and tax revenues to the American Samoa Government," he said.

Togiola said local economic and financial environment next year will be very volatile and easily influenced by policies, decisions and results of initiatives his office is pursuing with the U.S. President, Congress and Interior Department.

Moreover, decisions perpetrated by the two canneries can significantly alter the local economic landscape.

"Accordingly, I have instructed the Treasurer and the Budget [Office] director to closely monitor revenue collections to facilitate the fashioning of mitigation measures to preempt further deterioration of our financial position," he wrote.

ASG directors have been instructed by the governor to be present during budget hearings to justify the content of their respective budgets.

"I look forward to working at arms length with the Legislature to ensure that we weather the looming crisis together in the spirit of transparency and full accountability," the governor informed the Fono.

Samoa News understands that several departments and agencies, including the Fono, submitted their FY 2010 budgets based on directive by the Budget Office to maintain certain levels along with their separate supplemental appropriations, that will be considered if there additional revenues collected by ASG.

Revenue projections for ASG in the new fiscal year will be one of the main focus point of questions by lawmakers when they begin the budget review process, which is set to commence on Wednesday.

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