ASG calls for continued restraint in proposed FY 2019 budget proposals
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Government’s fiscal year 2019 budget threshold is set at the same ceiling as the current fiscal year, and last Friday was the deadline for proposed budget submissions, according to the Office of Program Planning and Budget director Catherine D. Saelua’s budget call letter, which went out earlier this month.
The ASG FY 2018 approved budget stands at $394.76 million.
The decision to keep the FY 2019 ceiling at the current fiscal year’s ceiling was based on “close consultation with our budget and revenue experts,” said Saelua in the budget call letter, which was approved by the governor, and sent to all Executive branch departments and agencies.
Saelua informed directors that budget negotiations would be scheduled if needed, upon receipt of the respective agency/department’s budget submissions prior to being finalized.
Aside from maintaining the FY 2018 budget ceiling, cabinet members were also informed that their proposed financial plan for FY 2019 should be aligned with their current organizational setup and functional statements.
Additionally, the cost for fringe benefits on FICA and Workmen’s Compensation are 7.65% and $1.05% for both career and contract employees, with an additional 8% government contribution to the ASG Employees Retirement Fund, thus bringing the total fringe benefit rate to 16.70% for career service and 8.70% for contract employees.
Directors were reminded that all fixed costs — such as utilities, communication, rents and leases — should also be incorporated into their budget plan.
“Given that some federal programs will be affected by the [Trump] administration’s proposed cuts,” Saelua informed directors that their proposed budget “must be consistent with the most recent approved federal grant award and (is) not to exceed authorized amounts of the current awards.”
Directors were to submit their budget in detail format with a copy of the latest grant awards including all other federal grants not listed.
ASG offices and semi autonomous agencies whose budgets are considered “Enterprise Funds” were requested to provided the profit and loss statement for the most recent three years. Enterprise funds are self sustaining ASG entities — such as ASPA, ASTC, Industrial Park, and Airport Division — funded through generated revenue to support its operation and services.
“It is imperative that proposed expenses must be tied to actual revenue collection,” Saelua wrote in the budget call letter. “Closer monitoring of enterprise activities is necessary to ensure that expenses are controlled and in line with actual revenue collections.”
Prior to Fono budget hearings in past years, lawmakers specifically requested that Enterprise Fund entities must submit a profit and loss statement, or that budget proposal would not be reviewed. (Samoa News will report in tomorrow’s edition, on other issues raised by Saelua in her letter.)
The budget for FY 2019, which officially starts on Oct. 1, 2018, will be the priority legislation for lawmakers to review and consider when the Fono convenes on July 9, for the 4th Regular Session of the 35th Legislature.
As in past years, committee leaders in both the Senate and House will request in advance the government’s latest financial statements as part of its budget review.
Some lawmakers told Samoa News recently that they are hopeful that the FY 2019 budget would be submitted in advance so there is enough time for the Fono to conduct its oversight review, which includes budget hearings.