PEMBROKE — Lumbee Tribal Councilman McDuffie Cummings says he is going to request that the council amend the fiscal year 2012-13 budget proposed by Tribal Chairman Paul Brooks so the total allocated to provide services for tribal members tops $30 million.
Cummings plans to do that when the council meets Thursday.
An official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development familiar with the accounting process used to allocate HUD funding to American Indian tribes told The Robesonian on Thursday that the tribe has more than $30.5 million that could be spent on “eligible expenditures” during the fiscal year that runs from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2013. The official also said that it might not be good policy to spend all the available money this year, and that it might be prudent to keep some in reserve so funding for tribal services does not run out before the tribe’s HUD allocation for fiscal year 2013-14 is received.
Over the past few weeks, confusion has existed over just how much money the tribe has in its coffers. According to HUD, as of Thursday the tribe had $17,162,388, which includes the tribe’s fiscal 2011-12 allocation as well as funds not expended since 2006. There is also another estimated $13,222,107 that has been allocated to the tribe for fiscal year 2012-13, but this amount cannot be expended until Congress approves its fiscal year budget later this year.
HUD officials noted that while there is $30 million available to the tribe, that total will never be shown in their account all at one time because funds are continually being drawn down to fund projects and services.
Cummings said there is currently $3 million that has been earmarked for existing tribal projects. That includes: $1.5 million for construction of homes for the elders, $1 million for the construction of a community center in District 5 and $500,000 for construction of the Districts 6, 7 and 8 Boys & Girls Club behind the Tribal Housing Complex on N.C. 711.
Cummings said he became concerned about tribal finances last month, when council members questioned top tribal administrators about how the tribe accounts for HUD funding and they “didn’t have the answers.”
“We went to the source and they didn’t know. It was (the council’s) obligation to pursue this,” Cummings said.
HUD and tribal officials agree that much of the confusion over how much money the tribe has might be the result of changes in HUD’s allocation system that now deposits all unspent money from previous fiscal years into one account, called a 55 account. Both HUD and tribal officials also agree that confusion could be the result of when HUD funds are received. Tribal officials contend that the tribe is actually operating on money a year behind.
Pearlean Revels, the Tribal Council’s speaker, said last week that the council began looking into the issue of how finances were being administered after HUD questioned why the tribe had not been spending more of their allocation of federal funds.
“They wanted to know why $30 million was in the pipeline,” she said.
Both Cummings and Revels said last week that the tribe will use the extra money in its budget to increase the number of tribal members who receive housing services during the coming fiscal year. Currently there are more than 1,000 members of the tribe waiting to receive new homes or have work done on their current dwellings.
“The elders and disabled will be given top priority,” Cummings said.