TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation on Monday passed a nearly $3 billion budget—the largest operating budget in the tribe’s history.
The Council of the Cherokee Nation approved the FY22 General Operating Budget of $2.98 billion and a capital investment budget of $418.5 million during Monday night’s Council meeting.
American Rescue Plan Act funds accounted for about 40 percent of the revenue sources for the FY22 budget, along with grants, tribal dollars and revenue from federal programs.
The budget increase will help with COVID-19 response programs, and provide staffing and services to expand the tribe’s criminal justice system upholding obligations under the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt ruling.
“The Cherokee Nation continues making investments for our Cherokee people including plans to build a new state-of-the-art W.W. Hastings Hospital, new Head Start centers and upgrading mental health and wellness facilities that will serve our people for years to come,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “In a time when our people have struggled through COVID-19, we will make significant changes with this budget to help Cherokees recover and have the best health care, education, language, housing, infrastructure and jobs and so many other services they need. We will also continue building up the largest criminal justice system in our tribe’s history in record speed to provide a blanket of protection within the Cherokee Nation Reservation for all citizens. I applaud the work of the Council’s Executive and Finance committee.; Council members review budgets monthly and worked for weeks leading up to the FY 2022 budget hearings to help ensure we crafted a solid budget to service the Cherokee people.”
Treasurer Janees Taylor first presented the FY22 Budget to Council on September 7 in which it passed Executive and Finance Committee with a 16-1 vote, with Councilor Wes Nofire opposing.
“Working with the Tribal Council today we passed the largest budget in the history of the Cherokee Nation. We are in a position right now to change the face of the Cherokee Nation and the way we provide for the Cherokee people forever,” Treasurer Taylor said. “The many projects in this budget in health, human services, and infrastructure are going to change the lives of generations of Cherokees who will follow.”
Deputy Chief Bryan Warner praised the Council for working with him and Chief Hoskin on the historic budget.
“More than dollars is the potential that these dollars mean in terms of making generational change for the Cherokee people. There is a spirit of cooperation between the Council and administration that will make these investments very powerful,” Deputy Warner said.
Several departments doubled their budgets for increased staffing to uphold obligations under the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt ruling, from policing, to prosecution to victim protection services.
The Cherokee Nation Supreme and District Courts increased from $1.25 million in FY21 to $2.69 million in FY22. The Office of the Attorney General increased from $4.6 million to $10 million and Marshal Service from $7.8 million to $14.8 million in FY22.
Other departments increased in response to COVID-19 needs and to add additional services and programs for citizens.
Health Services had a $317.8 million increase for a $924.5 million total budget this fiscal year for additional COVID testing and treatment, among adding more staffing.
Housing, Language and Transportation and Infrastructure are also building in more programs for citizens after increased budgets. Housing increased $60.8 million this fiscal year with a total $104.7 million budget. Language added $3 million to its $15 million total budget and Transportation and Infrastructure added $24.1 million to its $138 million budget for added water and sanitation projects.
“As the Executive and Finance Committee Chair on the Council, it’s exciting to have a hand approving the largest budget in our tribe’s history and I’m looking forward to seeing our tribal workforce expand and build in more services, programs and infrastructure that will make positive change for our citizens, not only in the next year, but for years to come,” said Councilman Keith Austin of Claremore.
The Cherokee Nation also expects to grow its tribal government employee base to more than 5,000 employees in FY22 which begins Oct 1, 2021 and ends September 30, 2022.