Monday, September 24, 2012

Cherokee Nation approves $526 million budget for 2013

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors approved a $526 million operating budget for fiscal year 2013 at the September Tribal Council meeting, pumping an additional $400,000 into the tribe’s Head Start program. The new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

“Providing top-notch early childhood education is a major objective of my administration, and I’m very pleased the council saw fit to approve additional funding to help our youngest Cherokee citizens,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “The success of our Cherokee children is vital to the future of our nation, so we owe it to them to provide the best opportunities possible.”

The program helps prepare preschoolers who may be from low-income homes for kindergarten, sharing with them the same learning resources their more affluent peers may have access to. Only about 80 percent of Head Start’s needs were met each year and many teachers left for higher paying jobs, said Head Start Director Verna Thompson.

"It’s great to see the Cherokee Nation really making Head Start a priority once again,” Thompson said. “This funding increase will help us better provide for our students and help retain qualified teachers.”

To offset the increases to Head Start, the council voted to reduce funding in areas that are already partially self-funded. In an effort to become more self-sufficient, the Cherokee Phoenix will eliminate free subscriptions, and begin charging $10 per year for a 12-month subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix will also appeal to businesses to sponsor news racks for distributing newspapers to their patrons. The November issue of the Cherokee Phoenix will be the first under the new policy. Access to online stories remains free.

“It will be better in the long run,” Cherokee Phoenix Editor Bryan Pollard said. “Down one path is ever increasing costs with the rise of our circulation numbers and for printing and mailing. We would’ve been in a position to ask council each year for more money. We’ve taken the path of self-sufficiency, which is us finding ways to pay for our own operations.”

Overall, the Cherokee Nation’s 2013 budget remained consistent with the 2012 budget. The Cherokee Nation budgets conservatively, but can add funding throughout the year if it becomes available.

In other September business, the council approved a $103 million capital improvements budget to fund roads projects, completion of the new veteran’s center and renovations for tribal health facilities. They also approved a measure to allow armed security at tribal casinos.

Additionally, Farrell Mackey Prater, a genealogist and researcher at the Will Rogers Library and Betty Barker, with the Adair County Historical Society were also approved to the new Cherokee Nation Registration Committee which will meet monthly with Registrar Linda O’Leary about tribal citizenship issues.

The next Tribal Council meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Oct. 15 at the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah.

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