Puerto Rico mayors ask governor to defend them against fiscal board
SAN JUAN – The president of the Puerto Rico Mayors Association (AAPR by its Spanish initials), Rolando Ortiz, and other mayors reacted Monday to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s announcement regarding the revisions to the government’s fiscal plan Thursday.
“The governor does well in trying to avoid the dismissal of public employees and the cutting of retiree pensions, but he should be equally demanding about the resources municipalities need to provide services to all residents equally,” wrote Ortiz, the mayor of Cayey.
He said that about$350 million has already been stripped from municipalities this fiscal year and warned that some towns will go bankrupt.
On Sunday, the governor sent a letter to the fiscal board, saying he would amend the fiscal plan to remove some of the requests of the entity created under the Promesa federal law. He specified that he would submit the revised plan Thursday, and that the dismissal of public employees, labor reform and pension cuts would not be included.
Meanwhile, Morovis Mayor Carmen Maldonado argued that the governor should demand to the fiscal board that the central government funds that had been eliminated for municipalities should be returned.
“Everyone recognizes, praises and congratulates the municipalities for the titanic work we have done since the passage of two hurricanes last September, but other than the mayors of both parties, there are few who demand the funds be returned to the municipalities. Furthermore, FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] has been extremely bureaucratic and slow as a federal agency in the reimbursement of funds, and the fiscal situation of towns is grave. If the governor doubts that, he should consult with the mayors of his own party. He will see we are saying the truth: Municipal funds must be restored,” Maldonado said.
In the organization’s release, San Lorenzo Mayor José Román argued that 40 percent of the revenue of more than half of the island’s towns come from the central government. The figure is from a study by the Puerto Rico Society of CPAs, which reveals the precariousness of some of the municipalities finances after the $350 million cut to transfers received from the General Fund.
“It is more than proven that municipalities are faster when serving the community, and at a lower cost. If what is sought is administrative efficiency, both the governor and the fiscal control board must be fair with the municipalities. They should give us back those funds, which are to provide services to the people,” he said.
Loíza Mayor Julia Nazario added that the state of Puerto Rico’s towns is further aggravated by the slow pace at which insurers are handling damage claims related to hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“The fiscal situation of the municipalities has been hurt further; that is why we at the Mayors Association call on Insurance Commissioner Javier Rivera Ríos in mid-March to exercise supervision over these cases with greater rigor,” Nazario said. “The municipalities have always responded with the payments, hopeful that, in the event of an emergency, insurance companies respond to us. The expense was made and many companies have not responded. This is added to the serious dislocation of municipal finances caused by the cutting of central government allocations for municipalities. We want the governor, as representative of the Puerto Rican people, to demand from the fiscal control board that justice be done to the 78 municipalities.”