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(GFR Media)

At least nine of the ten mayors identified by the Oversight Board to be part of a pilot plan will ask for an extension to submit the documents the entity required, which includes a fiscal plan and five-year budget projections.

Yesterday, El Nuevo Día interviewed eight mayors that joined the mayor of San Sebastián Javier Jiménez, who has already notified the Board that he will submit the information at the end of June and not on June 7, as requested.

The mayors consulted agreed that the current scenario is one of "uncertainty" since they still don´t know which budget will be approved for fiscal year 2020, whether the Board will give way to the recently approved law that exempts them from payments or if it the current budget will remain in force.

Meanwhile, the Governing Board of the Municipal Revenue Collection Center (CRIM, Spanish acronym) is meeting today to discuss when to issue the revenue estimates for FY 2019-20, a document that mayors need to prepare their budgets and send the information required by the Board.

CRIM´s executive director and mayor of Cidra, Javier Carrasquillo, was not available for an interview yesterday, but has already said that he will make "income estimates according to the new Administrative Burden Reduction for Municipalities Act". This statute exempts municipalities from contributing to the government´s health plan and paying pensions through the retirement system known as "PayGo".

That money would be redirected to the municipal equalization fund that through  CRIM contributes money to municipalities. If there is no money available, this fund will disappear in 2021.

The implementation of this law raises concerns among mayors since the Board anticipated that if the $ 311 million for its implementation are not available in the next budget, they would not endorse it.

William Alicea, mayor of Aibonito, said that he is concerned because, after all, he feels that if the governor does not identify the funds, eventually (the new law) will be eliminated, and mayors will have “to identify the money in our own budgets.”

On Wednesday, Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares submitted a budget to the Board which includes items for the new statute, but without following the guideline not to increase the budget.

The budget submitted totals $ 9,624 billion, while the cap imposed by the Board is $ 9,051 billion. Yesterday, Rosselló Nevares defended the budget he sent.

The Governor said that they understand that the Board is once again “overstepping its role to try to impose itself on public policy... We are going to take them to court.”

At the same time and under PROMESA, the Board demanded the municipalities of Aibonito, Cidra, Barranquitas, Orocovis, Isabela, San Sebastián, Villalba, Quebradillas, Camuy, and Comerío to submit their budgets, fiscal projections and a five-year plan on June 7.

The mayor of Comerío, Josian Santiago, said that if CRIM does not provide, in addition to the next fiscal year’s estimates, projections for the next four years, "I have no way to comply with a five-year plan."

He also said that if the Board does not give way to the law that exempts them from payments, it will be necessary to resort to other options. "I don’t know if we will have to do civil disobedience or to go to court, but the numbers (without the equalization fund) leave us inoperative."

"I hope the governor can show the Board that he identified funds from other sources," Santiago said.

The mayor of Isabela Carlos Delgado said that the problem was caused by the governor "because he is saying he identified the money in the budget, but has not said where, and that is what is keeping this in the air."

Meanwhile, Luis Javier Hernández, mayor of Villalba, described as "rushed" that the Board requested municipalities to submit all the documents in less than a month.

His counterpart from Quebradillas, Heriberto Vélez, said there is the "danger" of preparing a bad plan and then it turns it into a straightjacket.

Among those interviewed, the mayor of Orocovis Jesús Colón Berlingeri is the only one who plans to submit the documents to the Board on June 7. The mayor of Camuy Edwin García said that on Thursday the 10 mayors met with the Board and raised substantial doubts regarding the uncertainty over the resources that they must use to prepare the budget and other elements.

The mayor of Camuy said that it would be proper to get an extension. “There is uncertainty over the state budget, which has been rejected by the Board and the new law. And, if they are going to operate with the previous budget, what would the situation of the municipalities be,” he asked.

The mayor of Barranquitas Francisco Loópez said that furloughs would be an option in his municipality if his budget suffers reductions for not injecting money into the equalization fund.


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