Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Tribal Council Approves Largest Budget in Tribe's History

Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice Angela Jones administers the oath of office to Treasurer Lacey Horn of Vian, with Horn's husband, Jerry Caughman.

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved the largest comprehensive budget in the tribe's history at $767 million during Monday night's meeting.

The fiscal year 2016 budget starting Oct. 1 is $35 million more than fiscal year 2015.

Health services will see a $30 million increase, commerce a $3.5 million increase, human services a $3 million increase, career services a $2.5 million increase and higher education college scholarships a $1.5 million increase.

The budget was proposed by Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and approved unanimously at Monday night's Tribal Council meeting.

"The unprecedented financial growth is directly due to the success of our businesses, strategic investments, concentrated effort in third-party health care billing, increased number of federal grants and overall excellent financial stewardship," Baker said. "With an increased annual budget, Cherokee Nation citizens and employees will see our tribal programs and services grow to meet the needs of our people. When we have more dollars to grow our capacity and serve Cherokee people, that is a great thing."

The increase of funds will help put more citizens into new homes and jobs, and also help Cherokee elders and families with utility assistance, health care and child care services.

"It is truly miraculous to see where our tribe is today in comparison to even our recent past. Against all odds, we continue to prosper and move forward, as indicated by this budget," said Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd. "Through great stewardship and vision, Chief Baker and the Tribal Council have been able to work together for the betterment of our people. We are taking tribal money and investing where it should be invested: our citizens' needs."

In other business, the legislative body confirmed the following:

*Reappointment of Lacey Horn of Vian as treasurer of the Cherokee Nation. Horn has served as treasurer since 2011. While in office, Horn has helped upgrade the tribe's bond rating, promoted financial disclosure and transparency, and received numerous "Excellence in Financial Reporting" awards from the Government Finance Officers Association. Horn was also named to Oklahoma Magazine's "40 under 40" list in 2012 and "Executive of the Year" by the Native American Finance Officers Association in 2014.

*Reappointment of Linda O'Leary of Jay as registrar of the Cherokee Nation Registration Committee. O'Leary has served as registrar since 2012. While in office, O'Leary has expanded registration department staff from 14 to 38. She also helped reduce the backlog of citizenship applications, reduced wait times for citizenship cards by six months and implemented the Cherokee Nation photo ID card, of which the department has issued 60,000 since September 2012.

*Appointed Janelle Fullbright of Sallisaw as a board member of Cherokee Nation Businesses. Fullbright served eight years on the Tribal Council. Previously, she served on the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission and as a teacher at Central Public Schools and Carl Albert State College. While on the Tribal Council, Fullbright served as an advisory, non-voting member of the CNB board of directors.

*Authorized the Cherokee Nation to receive more bison later this year from the InterTribal Buffalo Council, originating from the Badlands, South Dakota.

Cherokee Nation citizens can view the fiscal year 2016 budget at The next Tribal Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 12 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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