Council of four allows next admin to revise annual budget according to programs

THE Cebu City Council of four yesterday returned the P9.8-billion revised annual budget submitted by now suspended and outgoing Mayor Michael Rama.

The council, which finished its session in 25 minutes, passed without hitches the resolution of Councilor James Cuenco covering the matter.

Cuenco decided to file the resolution, saying there is a new administration. This is also to address the impasse in the City Government’s annual budget.

“There is now a situation that there is a new executive. It would be next to impossible if we still continue to tackle the revised annual budget submitted by the previous executive,” he said.

Rama, along with Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and 12 city councilors, had been suspended by the Office of the President over the release of P20,000 calamity assistance to city officials and employees in 2013.

Sitting as acting mayor now until June 30 is Councilor Margarita Osmeña. By July 1, it will already be Osmeña’s husband, Mayor-elect Tomas Osmeña, who will be heading City Hall.

“It would create an absurd situation where the new executive who is supposed to defend it (annual budget) will now come to the council to oppose it. So, there would be a stalemate all throughout,” Cuenco said.

Programs

In his one-page resolution, Cuenco urged the executive department to submit the soonest time possible a new annual budget that will conform to the “thrusts and programs” of the new administration so the council can immediately tackle it.

When interviewed, Cuenco said he had consulted Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella about his move and the latter was amenable to it, but admitted he was not able to talk to Rama.

“The last message that Mayor Rama told us is that we would not be like the others before. We can collaborate with the present administration but we can be critical on the programs that they will introduce. If it would be detrimental to the city, then we will oppose it. If it is good for the whole, who are we to oppose?” he added.

By July 1, Team Rama will already have the majority bloc of the council.

Acting Mayor Osmeña, in a separate interview yesterday, welcomed the move of the council.

“I thanked them. I really appreciate that they have acted on that (annual budget) because it breaks the stalemate,” she said.

She said she will submit a new annual budget probably next week and added she will consult her husband if there are programs or projects he wants funded.

Offhand, Osmeña said she will include the more than P80-million budget for the release of the 14th month bonus of around 5,000 City employees.

But she will no longer include the P2.6-billion budget that Rama has been proposing for the prepayment of the entire remaining loan balance for the South Road Properties (SRP).

“It (prepayment) will no longer happen,” she said.

Instead, Osmeña said she will just put in the new annual budget the payment for the annual amortization for the SRP.

The City has to pass a new budget after the Department of Budget and Management 7 declared the previously approved P6.4-billion annual budget as inoperative due to several deficiencies.

It includes the City’s failure to failure to set aside P346 million to pay for the debt servicing or amortization this year.

Skin and bones

For the new annual budget, Osmeña said she prefers that that it will be “skin and bones,” which her husband previously adopted. It means the annual budget will mainly cover personal services and recurring expenses in order to make it simple.

She plans to meet with the local finance committee as well as the four members of the council in order to discuss the new annual appropriation.

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