The Pryor Times

Local News

September 25, 2012

Cherokee Head Start gets boost in tribe’s budget

The Council of the Cherokee Nation on Sept. 17 narrowly approved the tribe's budget for the coming fiscal year, including a big increase in Head Start funding.

"This budget reflects our values, and I'm proud of it," said Executive and Finance committee chairperson Jodie Fishinghawk of Stilwell.

The council, which had unanimously approved the plan in its budget committee last month, passed the plan 9-8 at Monday's full council meeting.

The budget is based on a $618 million blueprint proposed by Principal Chief Bill John Baker, his first comprehensive budget since taking office last year.

"The budget presented to us was a great place to start, and the Chief's office worked with the council to make adjustments to address some unmet needs," said the council's Deputy Speaker, Chuck Hoskin, Jr, of Vinita.

The budget includes $400,000 in new funding for the tribe's Head Start program, which provides pre-K education at various sites in northeast Oklahoma.

"Head Start makes a difference for kids and families throughout Cherokee Nation," said Council Speaker Tina Glory-Jordan of Hulbert.

"With this new funding, Head Start can increase teacher salaries and stay competitive," she added.

Funding for the Head Start increase came from a reduction in subsidies for the Cherokee Heritage Center and the tribe's newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix.

Glory-Jordan said that both entities were capable of finding new sources of funding and both will continue to receive a large subsidy from the tribe in the new budget.

The Phoenix has announced a plan to generate new revenue from ad sales and subscription fees.  Hoskin said that the plan will put the paper on the path to "fiscal independence."

Other budget highlights include:

• $1 million for community water lines.

• $200,000+ for crisis intervention programs, prison release rehab programs, homeless centers and child advocacy programs.

• $195,500 for Boys & Girls Clubs.

• $50,000 for backpack nutrition programs.

• $206,000 for a new vocational assistance program.

• $2 million to complete Cherokee veteran's center.

• $90+ million in a separate capital projects budget.

Fishinghawk said that an increase in funding for positions in the tribe's health budget could pave the way for more competitive pay for health care professionals employed by the tribe.

Councilors voting for the budget were Councilors Glory-Jordan, Fishinghawk, Hoskin, Jannelle Fullbright, Frankie Hargis, Dick Lay, Curtis Snell, Joe Byrd and David Walkingstick.

Councilors opposing the budget were Cara Cowan-Watts, Jack Baker, Julia Coates, Meredith Frailey, Don Garvin, Lee Keener, Burl Anglen and David Thornton.

The budget, effective Oct. 1, goes to Chief Bill John Baker for approval.


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