Creativity will be the key according to Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly when it comes to planning the Navajo Nation budget, along with innovation to ensure direct services to the Navajo people pending federal budget cuts that will limit funds to the Nation according to a Navajo Nation press release.
“We are going to have to be creative to make sure the services for our people are kept up. People are depending on their government to be fiscally responsible as well. During our several town hall meetings we held, our people said they wanted the government to be held accountable. We listened and we are making changes to make our government more fiscally accountable, efficient, and responsible. This is the Shelly/Jim effort to reform our Navajo Nation government,” Shelly said in the release.
Shelly expects the budget cuts to be in the range of 5 to 10 percent in the upcoming fiscal year putting the pressure on Navajo division directors to find new ways of budgeting.
“These are difficult times for our Nation’s budget, but I know we can succeed and make our budget work. The division directors were chosen for their ability to lead their divisions and now, we need them to lead their divisions toward success with a new way of budgeting,” Shelly said.
“The overall goal here is to streamline our services. We must do this for our people and practice financial responsibility. We are capable of doing this. We have showed our strength in the past. We are creative people, now we need to do more with less when it come to budgeting,” Shelly added in the release.
Following several meetings between the three branch chiefs and their staff throughout June and July an agreement was made to merge the priorities of the three branches, judicial, legislative and executive as many of the goals were similar for each branch the release stated.
“This is the first time overall priorities have been identified by the Navajo Nation. This allows us to focus our work and put our money to areas that are important to the Navajo people,” Shelly added.
The summarized list of priorities is as follows:
1. Protect the Public, Assets, Infrastructure, and Natural Resources and Enforcement (public safety) and Justice Services
2. Youth enhancement, Education and Culture/Language Preservation
3. Protect Sovereignty and Navajo Nation Treaty Rights
4. Improve Organizational Productivity and Efficiency
5. Provide Effective Service Delivery to the Navajo People
6. Develop the Navajo Nation Economy and Strengthen Financial Solvency
“Priority needs funding related to these areas will be considered first,” Shelly said.
In a memo that Shelly wrote to all division directors he asked them to use the priorities as much as possible in developing the respective budgets.
“We are going to look at programs and projects that are aligned with the budget priorities first, then go down the line with the other priorities we established,” Shelly said.
Another change that is being implemented is that the executive branch will be incorporating performance based budgeting based on strategic planning and measurable goals that were established at the branch level according to the release.
“A large part of our budget comes from the federal government. If they are going to start cutting budgets, then the Navajo Nation is going to have to get creative to make every dollar count,” Shelly said.