The Osage Nation Gaming Commission’s fiscal year 2016 operations budget is about $3 million slimmer than last year’s budget after the Gaming Commission board approved a second round of employee cuts.
The three-person Gaming Commission board voted unanimously to set the FY 2016 operations budget at $6.5 million at its June 22 meeting. The budget is now subject to consideration by the Fourth ON Congress when it convenes for the 24-day Tzi-Zho Session starting Sept. 8.
After being appointed and confirmed to the commission last fall, Chairwoman Marsha Harlan told the Congress the commission would look for spending cuts to the Nation’s largest government entity. According to the Gaming Commission’s FY 2015 budget, the commission had 136 positions, which included processing and eligibility workers, auditing and regulatory compliance workers and surveillance officers for the seven Osage Casinos. It now has 101.
Harlan said several of the employee reduction cuts were done to eliminate duplication of duties and to increase efficiency. Also approving the FY 2016 Gaming Commission budget were fellow commissioners Michael Kidder and Larraine Wilcox.
Gaming Commission Acting Director Elizabeth Hembree told the Gaming Enterprise Board on June 17 she believes the reductions will make the commission “extremely effective.” For example, Hembree said job duties of two positions were combined into one, thereby eliminating the other. Hembree also told the gaming board the Gaming Commission workforce reduction was made through attrition and several volunteer resignations.
“We’ve re-evaluated the budget situation – for FY 15 we did a $1.1 million cut to the Gaming Commission (office budget),” said Hembree. “Our new budget will come in about $3 million below what it was initially last year. We’ve had approximately 136 (employees) and we have lowered the amount of positions to 101.”
Hembree, a former regulatory audit manager for the Gaming Commission, assumed the acting director role after the Gaming Commission board dismissed Danielle Brashear from the director post on March 30.
The second employee number reduction comes after the Gaming Commission initially cut $1.1 million from its current FY 2015 budget and that Congress approved the reductions during the Hun-Kah Session in April. At that time, the commission staff was reduced to 118 employees, Harlan told Congress.
In a joint statement from the Gaming Commission, Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear said he supported the budget reduction efforts. “By cutting waste and implementing a policy of good stewardship, the ONGC budget reduction will allow more money to be distributed in the areas of education and health. The Commission has done an outstanding job of adopting fiscal responsibility and have set the bar high for the rest of the Nation.”
With reductions in workforce, other associated costs will also decrease, including budget lines for former employee benefits, travel and training. The Gaming Commission also relinquished five of its assigned General Services Administration (GSA) vehicles to the ON Executive Branch. Hembree told the commission the vehicle returns were finalized during its May meeting.
Original Publish Date: 2015-07-14 00:00:00