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Mayors struggle with dividing funds

by Krystal Paco

Guam - While the Guam Legislature continues to battle over the budget, the Mayors Council of Guam continues to talk trash. With pending funding coming from the Recycling Revolving Fund to go towards the Islandwide Abandoned Vehicle Cleanup, the division of money between the island's 19 districts is up for debate.

It's been two years and the Na'gasgas Program has serviced the villages of Santa Rita, Barrigada and Yona. According to Sinajana Vice Mayor Robert Hoffman, earlier this year with the government's financial crisis, some $5.5 million were taken from this funding, but just last month Senator Rory Respicio introduced Bill 290, which would appropriate $475,000 from the Recycling Revolving Fund to the Mayors Council to continue the islandwide cleanup of white goods, abandoned vehicles, scrap metals, and hazardous materials.

"Is $75,000 enough?" questioned Hoffman. "We don't know, but it's a start for us."

Up for debate, however, is how this money should be divided. "Unlike other districts or counties or places in the states each of their own districts collect their own taxes, whatever real estate business tax stays with that community here on Guam, it's put in a giant pool and divvied out as one general appropriation. There is some disparity, some unfairness in some sense the larger districts are carrying the load," he added.

Yigo mayor Robert Lizama has grown impatient with the cleanup, saying, "It's not fair that we're changing the rules midstream. It's not fair to my district, which is Number 14. I was looking forward to Yigo's time to be serviced by the abandon vehicle collection, and with that if they take that $400,000 is that also gonna cover the three districts that already has been serviced by this abandon vehicle?"

Others, like Umatac mayor Dean Sanchez, feel cheated because his village has a smaller population of only 1,200 residents. "They wanted to give the larger villages more money for their community, and I find that very unfair because every community should be given a just an equal opportunity to resolve their problems, no matter what the cost is," he stated.

Lizama added, "I have 19,000, but at the same time I have more vehicle movement in the village. I contribute more to the Abandon Vehicle Fund because of the numbers I see in Yigo, so I think we should be given more funding based on that numbers of vehicles that are from Yigo - those families and operators that live in the village of Yigo."

Hoffman proposes that each village be allowed to collect its own taxes, saying, "In Sinajana the same way we have a high income whatever we pay a portion should come back to the community, because we pay such a high rate of taxes. We should be able to get services without having to demand it or beg it from the other districts

Despite the heated trash talk, all 19 districts have a single consensus, as Sanchez said, "All the mayors are experiencing illegal dumping islandwide."  Lizama added, "Those that are in the practice of illegal dumping of these metallic waste or these junk vehicles; if they want to get rid of their junk there is a source, and that avenue is get a hold of the mayor so we can do it properly and take it away and not create an eyesore for our island and our visitors."

A public hearing has yet to be scheduled to approve the appropriation of $475,000.

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