FY 2020 ceiling is same as current fiscal year — $439.58 million
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The American Samoa Government’s FY2020 budget threshold is set at the same ceiling as the current fiscal year, and deadline for submission of proposed budgets is 4p.m., June 7th, according to Office of Program Planning and Budget director Catherine D. Saelua’s budget call letter.
The decision to keep the FY 2020 ceiling at the current fiscal year’s ceiling - (which is $439.58 million) - was based on “close consultation with our budget and revenue experts,” said Saelua in the budget call letter, which was approved by Acting Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga.
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.
Saelua noted that discord between the US Congress and US President Donald Trump early this year, resulted in the longest federal shutdown in history, contributing to not only unnecessary delays but also the scaling back of budget appropriations ASG normally receives from the federal government.
Additionally, the shutdown prompted Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga to issue the Cost Containment Measures in the beginning of 2019, freezing local funds that cover overtime, travel, new hires, and proper review of funding contract renewals.
While ASG’s relationship with the federal government remains strong, Saelua said “it is important to recognize that the challenges and risks continue to persist thereby raising the level of funding uncertainties affected by possible federal program policy amendments today and in the future.”
According to Saelua, ASG currently receives approximately 35% of its annual budget from the federal government, while the remaining 65% is local “to cover [ASG] spending on services provided to meet the growing needs of our people.”
“In essence, for every dollar budgeted revenue we received, only 35 cents is from the federal government and 65 cents is raised locally,” she wrote. “For the most part, we rely mostly on our limited local funds coffer, to fully sustain critical needs of the American Samoa Government through provisioning of services required by our people with real time commitment to expanding the territory’s economy.”
While confident in the prospect for a brighter future, “we must be pragmatic and cautiously conservative in our revenue estimates” for the FY 2020 proposed budget, she said.
“To continue our promise to be fiscally astute and financially accountable by maintaining a strong financial position and to ensure that the social and economic benefits are maximized for every dollar of public money spent, we must continue on this path of financial discipline, fiscal integrity and responsibility,” she said.
Aside from maintaining the FY 2019 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 budget amounts, Saelua informed directors that their proposed budget “must be consistent with the most recent approved federal grant award and 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 provide the profit and loss statement for the most recent three years.
“It is imperative that proposed expenses must be tied to actual revenue collection,” said Saelua, adding that closer monitoring of enterprise activities is necessary to ensure that expenses are controlled and in line with actual revenue collections.”
Enterprise funds are self sustaining ASG entities — such as ASPA, ASTCA, Industrial Park, and Airport Division — funded through generated revenue to support its operations and services.