CNMI Lawmaker Hopes To Reduce Overtime, Utility Spending

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Tony Sablan says giving DPS more personnel could curb overtime

By Emmanuel T. Erediano

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Jan. 7, 2014) – CNMI House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tony P. Sablan will look into the possibility of reducing police officers’ overtime (OT) hours and the government’s utility debt to avoid overspending.

Sablan, IR-Saipan, noted that Gov. Eloy S. Inos’ expenditure report for fiscal year 2013, attributed most of the overspending to excessive prior-year and current-year utility charges, overspending in Department of Public Safety (DPS) operations and unbudgeted costs for medical referral.

Although the revenue collections in FY ’13 were higher than projected, Inos’ annual report disclosed a net deficit of $1.3 million because the government’s total expenditures exceeded the appropriations under Public Law 17-85.

The report showed total revenue of $116.8 million or $2.5 million in excess of projected revenue. However, the government overspent by $3.7 million.

The governor’s report indicated that DPS, which received $8 million, overspent by $334,680 while the medical referral program, which was budgeted at $2.1 million, overspent by $2 million.

Utility costs were budgeted at $6 million but the government ended up spending $9.8 million or $3.7 million over budget.

In an interview yesterday, Sablan said in the next fiscal year budget deliberations, they will have to look at where exactly DPS overspent. It appears, he said, that the overspending in FY ‘13 was in overtime pay. One way of curbing OT pay is to provide DPS with an adequate number of personnel.

"We have to look at DPS and see where the expenditures were made. Is it the OT? I think we have the added FTEs and additional funding [in FY14 budget] I think there should be a significant reduction in unbudgeted costs such as OT," he said.

He said the Legislature has always taken a position that OT is necessary "but what can we do to reduce it?" He believes putting "additional bodies" on the payroll will in the long run benefit the department.

Sablan said they will also have to look at the $18 million the government owes the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. (CUC). In particular, he wants to see how to reduce the Public School System’s debt to CUC.

The medical referral program, he added, "is one of those uncontrolled expenses, but I think we have to look at what we can do. We can look at how much we can provide as earmarking aside from what we have budgeted. I think we have to look at the sources of revenue and what sources of revenue we can earmark."

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