Head Start gets additional $400K in 2013 budget
9/18/2012 4:56:51 PM
 
Tribal Councilors Jodie Fishinghawk, left, Tina Glory Jordan and Chuck Hoskin Jr. confer during the council’s Sept. 17 meeting in Tahlequah, Okla. The main topic on the agenda was the tribe’s fiscal year 2013 budget. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Tribal Councilors Jodie Fishinghawk, left, Tina Glory Jordan and Chuck Hoskin Jr. confer during the council’s Sept. 17 meeting in Tahlequah, Okla. The main topic on the agenda was the tribe’s fiscal year 2013 budget. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ Senior Reporter TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council approved the Cherokee Nation’s fiscal year 2013 budget by a 9-8 vote at its Sept. 17 meeting, giving Head Start $400,000 more than it had in FY 2012 but at the expense of the Cherokee Heritage Center and Cherokee Phoenix. If Principal Chief Bill John Baker signs the budget act, the Head Start increase will be effective on Oct. 1 and provide pre-K education at tribal Head Start sites throughout northeast Oklahoma. “Head Start makes a difference for kids and families throughout Cherokee Nation,” Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory Jordan said. “With this new funding, Head Start can increase teacher salaries and stay competitive.” During the meeting, Head Start Director Verna Thompson said it has been difficult to retain experienced staff because she was not able to offer competitive salaries. However, increased funding for Head Start came via 25 percent reductions for the Cherokee Heritage Center and the tribe’s newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. Glory Jordan said both of those entities were capable of finding new funding sources and would continue receiving large subsidies in the new budget. The Phoenix has a plan to generate new revenues from advertisings sales, subscription fees and sponsored distribution sites, which Deputy Speaker Chuck Hoskin Jr. said would put the paper on the path to “fiscal independence.” However, Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts disagreed with the CHC and Phoenix cuts. “I do think that Head Start needs additional money, but it’s going to be at the cost of our Cherokee Heritage Center and our Cherokee Phoenix. They (both) have 25 percent budget cuts,” she said. Cowan Watts said she thought the cuts had been discussed beforehand with the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board and staff, but later found that was not the case. “Another group got caught in the middle of politics, and now I think the very essence of our free press act is at risk…they are going to have to eliminate the paper edition and free subscriptions to Cherokee citizens,” she said. “I think we could have done that way differently. We could plan ahead for that and have our free press be given the opportunity to plan one and three years out.” She said she believes there’s enough money coming from the tribe’s gaming operations to fund all areas being cut. Cherokee Phoenix Executive Editor Bryan Pollard shared the newspaper’s business plan with the council and said the budget cut would benefit the Phoenix in the long run. “The Phoenix was basically at a fork in the road. Down one path was ever-increasing costs due to increasing circulation numbers, increasing printing costs and increasing mailing costs where we would be in the position of asking the council for more and more money,” Pollard said. “Or we could go down another path toward self-sufficiency, which is us finding ways to pay for our own operation, and so we’ve taken that path with this plan.” Glory Jordan said councilors worked with the Phoenix to put the news organization on a path to self-sufficiency. “I believe that we’re putting them on the road to, what I see, becoming completely on their own,” she said. “While they are being cut…their money is going to a very needed service, which is Head Start.” The FY 2013 budget is based on a $618-million blueprint proposed by Chief Baker, his first comprehensive budget since taking office on Oct. 19, 2011. Other budget highlights included $1 million for community waterlines, $195,000 for area Boys & Girls Clubs, $50,000 for backpack nutrition programs for needy school children, $206,000 for a new vocational assistance program, $2 million to complete the Cherokee Veterans Center in Tahlequah and more than $90 million in a separate capital projects budget. Councilors voting for the budget were Glory Jordan, Hoskin, Jodie Fishinghawk, Janelle Fullbright, Frankie Hargis, Dick Lay, Curtis Snell, Joe Byrd and David Walkingstick. Councilors Cara Cowan Watts, Jack Baker, Julia Coates, Meredith Frailey, Don Garvin, Lee Keener, Burl Anglen and David Thornton opposed it. In other action, a resolution for a “friendly” lawsuit against the Election Commission seeking a declaratory judgment regarding the Voter Amendment Act of 2012 was approved by a 12-5 vote. The resolution’s language was amended because the council’s attorney, Dianne Barker Harrold, filed the lawsuit on Aug. 31. The lawsuit is one of two filed in the tribe’s District Court regarding the issue of reapportioning the council’s legislative districts from five to 15. The second suit filed on Sept. 5 by Cowan Watts, Keener, Anglen, Coates and Baker seeks judgment and relief from the redistricting law they deem unconstitutional. Hoskin said the two lawsuits seek the same outcome, to determine if the Voter Amendment Act is constitutional or not. “It’s incredible. Often we are butting heads about where we want to go. We actually want to go to the same place.” Cowan Watts, Keener, Anglen, Baker and Coates voted against the resolution.

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