During the board meeting, I recommended the school hold the work session locally at the school (Leupp) which will save money on travel funds in this time of economic hardships on federally funded schools. I expressed that tribes across the nation will be impacted by the $130 million dollar budget cuts and any savings now will help with any shortages to come or potential additional services for Social Services or other programs.
Henry Moore Jr., a member of the Governing Board, stated that currently we are not being cut but next school year we will see big cuts so traveling right now is not hurting our budget. Another disappointing answer came from the principal, who stated, "We have not had a work session away from the school in over two years, it's time we had one since staff are saying their morale is low."
The key aspects that Mr. Moore and the principal do not get or better yet understand is that cuts will hurt the school and mitigating cost and spending conservatively now will help make the cuts minimal. Mr. Moore's stance is that we have money now, let's spend it while the money is there. If the school receives less money, certain programs will have to be cut...with budget cuts it hurts our children's education and their morale.
Since 2010, as school board member at the time, I voiced my concerns that excess travel or work sessions away from school is not in the best interest of the school due to costs of mileage, per diem, hotels, meals, and conferences rooms regardless if it's for school business. Most school activities should take place at the school where the community and parents are welcomed to participate.
It's disappointing the new Governing Board members do not foresee impacts from the sequestration order as mandated by United States Congress and the president of the United States. The Governing Board consists of Elsie Monroe (Tolani Lake), Roberta Gorman (Leupp), Ralph Drake (Leupp), and Henry Moore Jr. (Birdsprings).
We need leadership, not board members approving and collecting travel checks for luxury work sessions away from the school.
Mandatory retirement would help budget woes
I would like to take this opportunity to comment on the sequester being imposed by the federal government and how it is expected to impact Indian Country in general and the Navajo Nation in particular. The Navajo Nation anticipates a funding reduction by $25 million.
I know this is probably sensitive to the departments that receive federal funding through PL 93-638 and other private and state funding sources. Allow me to take matters back about one year ago when it was reported by the media the nation was returning $30 million of federal funds unspent. The nation is allowed 12 months to spend these funds and I feel it is sufficient time.
Many of the federally funded programs are performance- and formula-driven. In reality this means if the funds are not spent according to plan and time frame the feds will determine the program as being ineffective and recover the funds and they can use the non-performance as a factor and reduce funding the following year.
Common sense tells me federal dollars are precious to the nation and it is very important that every cent be spent rather than returning to the feds. It requires developing a good plan and ensure it is spent according to the spending targets by quarters.
During my tenure as a program director I made it my philosophy to spend the federal housing dollars by end of the third quarter of a given fiscal year and set aside the last quarter for account closure.
The point I am trying to convey is the feds are using the non-performance as a management tool to penalize the Navajo Nation in their determination of the anticipated funding reduction in the current sequester period. It is not an option. It is for this reason it is important to employ the productive people in the key positions and make sure the funds are spent according to the time frame.
It is my guess our tribal leaders will take a position by virtue of the treaty obligation. Yes, I agree the federal government does have a treaty obligation with the tribes nation-wide. However, somehow we need to realize by virtue of past experience the Republicans within the Congress are always trying to find ways to abolish the treaties. Our tribal leaders didn't do enough to defend us and ensure Congress treaty obligation during the 1990s during the Health Care Reform.
The good example I would like to elude to is the Indian Health Service who found a way to escape from the federal obligation and as a result the service at IHS is no longer free.
Instead, they require us to have adequate health insurance or absorb the cost. Even with changes the service at IHS is not any better than some years ago. What do we do in the event Congress gets serious about abolishing the treaties? Are we prepared?
The suggestion I would like to offer at this critical point is what I have mentioned before. It's time to make it mandatory to retire those tribal employees who have more than 25 years of service with the tribe. Their prime times are gone and they are just there to collect their paychecks. This is the prime time to make changes and cap tribal employment to 25 years. I can guarantee there is life after tribal retirement.
I appreciate the opportunity you have afforded me in expressing these issues and concerns.