PEMBROKE — Lumbee tribal members on Tuesday were presented two budgets for consideration, one totaling $10 million more than the other.
Councilman McDuffie Cummings, chairman of the Tribal Council’s Finance Committee, presented both the council’s proposed $24,891,303 budget and Chairman Paul Brooks’ $14,574,178 spending plan for the fiscal year that began on Oct. 1. Currently, the tribal government is operating under a continuing resolution, which allows spending to continue at the same rate as in the past fiscal year until a new budget is passed.
Cummings attributed the extra money in the council’s budget as being U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds that have accumulated since 2006.
“This money was allocated in past budgets and never spent,” he said. “We are proposing to take this money and spend it on more programs and services.”
Although proposing a larger budget for some services, the council’s budget calls for eliminating the tribe’s four-member Public Affairs Department, which is funded in the chairman’s proposed budget. The council also wants no part of the creation of an Assets Management Department, which Brooks is seeking to fund in his budget proposal.
Several tribal members attending the budget hearing Tuesday in the council chambers of the tribe’s Housing Complex spoke out strongly against eliminating the Public Affairs Department. The department, they said, is necessary to ensure that tribal members are kept aware of tribal services and business, as well as to represent and provide a positive image of the tribe to the public.
“You can’t have a tribe this size and not have a Public Affairs Department,” said Cynthia Hunt, who was instrumental in the writing of the tribe’s constitution. “I’m also concerned about the substantial increase you are proposing for the council’s travel budget and professional development … . There’s a $145,000 stipend for the council.”
April Whittemore Locklear, an academic adviser at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, also urged the council to reconsider eliminating the Public Affairs Department. She said she had worked with the tribe from 2004 to 2007 and is familiar with the good work the department has done over the years in providing information to tribal members and the public.
The council’s budget allocations in a number of areas is higher than the chairman’s, including housing rehabilitation services, new construction, administration, and elder services, but Brooks continues to stand by his position that the council has created a budget that includes federal funds that the tribe doesn’t have.
“They don’t have that money,” Brooks told The Robesonian at the beginning of Tuesday’s hearing.
The council is offering a budget proposal that includes higher allocations than Brooks in areas that include housing rehabilitation services, new construction, administration and elder services.
During his presentation of the council’s budget, Cummings emphasized that the budget provides for paying off the $2.7 million still owed on the tribe’s Housing Complex located on N.C. 711 just outside of Pembroke. He said that will save the tribe about $5 million in interest.
“If we ever lose our federal funding we will own this building,” Cummings said.
Brooks reminded the council that during a retreat in April, they had agreed on what should be in the tribe’s current Indian Housing Plan, a plan that must be approved by HUD before it provides a tribe with its yearly allocation of funds.
“We were all in agreement,” he said. “That’s my budget.”
Cummings said that the council will consider the comments from the chairman and tribal members who spoke during the hearing. The budget is not final until a budget resolution is passed by the council, an action that could take place as early as the council’s regular monthly meeting on Feb. 21.
Under the tribe’s constitution, the council has the authority to establish the budget. Once it is approved, however, the chairman has the authority to carry out the budget as he deems appropriate, as long as he remains within budget guidelines.