ASDOE basic operations funding taking a hit in new fed budget

2018 fed budget proposes slight increase in CIP, but about $1Mil less for operations
fili@samoanews.com

American Samoa is to receive a slight increase in federal funding for capital improvement projects, while funding for operations will face a decrease of just over $1 million, according to the US Interior Department’s Office of Insular fiscal year 2018 budget justification documents submitted to the US Congress.

President Donald Trump’s proposed FY 2018 was publicly released yesterday and includes USDOI’s overall budget as well as its bureaus and offices such as the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA), which also released the 107-page FY 2018 budget justification document.

Under Assistance to the Territories, the FY 2018 budget request for American Samoa Operations is $21.5 million, a decrease of $1.2 million from FY 2017 funding level of $22.70 million, according to the budget justification documents, which also shows that the actual FY 2016 funding totaled $22.75 million.

Funding decrease “will limit OIA’s assistance to American Samoa operations by reduced funding to American Samoa Department of Education operations,” documents explained. It also shows that under the proposed FY 2018 total funding, $11.46 million is allocated for “Basic (ASDOE) Operations”, $7.9 million to LBJ hospital operations, $1.3 million for American Samoa Community College operations, and $855,000 for the High Court.

The FY 2017 budget shows $12.59 million was allocated to “Basic (ASDOE) Operations”.

According to the budget justification document, OIA each year provides grant funds to American Samoa for the operation of the local government, including the judiciary, as the ASG does not have sufficient local revenues to fund the entire operating costs of its government.

Therefore, the purpose of this program activity is to fund the difference between budget needs and local revenues.

Furthermore, USDOI’s policy is to maintain the operations grant at a constant level, thus requiring American Samoa to absorb the costs of inflation or costs associated with a growth in population. Over the years, American Samoa has assumed an increasing percentage of the total costs of government operations.

“The American Samoa Operations funding provided currently represents approximately 14% of ASG’s General Fund revenue and 9% of the LBJ Hospital’s revenue,” documents says.

Samoa News notes that ASDOE also receives annual funding from USDOE grant programs, with the largest funding source, through the Consolidated Grant program.

CIP FUNDING

According to the budget proposal, American Samoa is allocated $10.3 million in construction funding, an increase of $708,000 from FY 2017.

Over the past year, several important CIP projects in American Samoa were completed while others made significant progress, according to the budget justification document, which sites for example:

•     Port Administration Department completed construction of a new ferry boat  - MV Manu’atele - to provide reliable transportation for passengers and cargo traveling between Tutuila and the Manu’a Islands.

•     Department of Public Safety completed construction of a new inmate building at the Tafuna Correctional Facility to alleviate overcrowding

•     LBJ Medical Center made steady progress on the renovation and expansion of the Labor, Delivery and Operating Room

•     American Samoa Community College made progress with construction on its new Multipurpose Building that will be finished in the summer of 2017.

OIA says the requested $10.3 million for FY 2018 will be used to continue meeting critical infrastructure needs in American Samoa similar to previous years.

Specific construction projects to be funded in FY 2018 were not detailed in the budget justification document but as in past years, the details are usually outlined in the ASG annual budget submission to the Fono later in the year.  (ASG’s FY 2018 budget proposal is expected to be sent to the Fono in July or August this year.)

CIP funding, however, are categorized in three general priority areas. First order priorities include health, safety, education, and utilities. Second order priorities include ports and roads. Third order priorities include industry, shoreline protection, parks and recreation and other government facilities.

The objective of this program is to assist American Samoa in providing infrastructure to promote economic development and improve health, education and public safety.

American Samoa also gets other funding allocations through various USDOI grant programs and Samoa News will report in future editions on some of those details.

In a national news release, USDOI announced yesterday the President’s proposed $591.9 million for FY 2018 for the benefits of the insular areas and the freely associated states. The budget request for OIA includes $84.3 million in discretionary appropriations and $507.6 million in mandatory funding.

“While we continue to support all of our U.S. insular areas, we have long been striving to meet our commitments to the Republic of Palau,” said Acting Assistant Secretary Nikolao Pula in the news release.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke says territories and freely associated states “are absolutely critical to the strategic readiness of the United States, and they are part of the fabric of who we are as fellow Americans.”

"President Trump's budget proposal makes it abundantly clear that these lands, often on the front lines of escalating tensions, are under our protection and serve vital importance,” he said.

CONGRESSWOMAN AUMUA AMATA

Congresswoman Aumua Amata, released the following statement regarding the President’s Budget Proposal for FY-2018:

“The President has made it clear, that national security and defense are his top priorities. The budget proposal released today by the administration reflects those priorities, which are important to all Americans.

“We in Congress will now do our part to review the President’s budget blueprint. It is Congress who ultimately allocates funding levels, and to that end I look forward to working with my colleagues and the administration to ensure that the American people’s priorities and needs are met, including those in American Samoa and the other territories.

“We must ensure that any potential cuts do not come on the backs of our most economically challenged and geographically isolated populations,” she concluded.

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