- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

OKMULGEE, Okla. (AP) - Leaders with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation are exploring options on how to handle an $18 million shortfall in the tribe’s gaming budget for the 2016 fiscal year, Principal Chief George Tiger said.

“I hope you take this seriously,” Tiger told National Council members during an emergency meeting Thursday night. “This is very important. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves as a Cabinet and work with you.”

The Okmulgee-based tribe has recently grown by 13 percent to 79,520 members, but Tiger said the larger population means a greater demand for services, the Tulsa World reported Friday (https://bit.ly/1MILs26 ). The tribe’s services are primarily paid for with gaming revenue, and that’s projected to fall $18.7 million short.

“This is a trend,” Tiger said. “There have been budget overages from the gaming revenues since 2008. . Last year we were fortunate enough to have carryover to bridge the gap in the budget. We don’t have that this year.”

The chief offered three proposals to address the shortfall: changing distribution amounts, borrowing against the tribe’s $308 million permanent fund and deferring some debt retirement. But council member David Nichols of Okmulgee said he thought the chief could have vetoed some appropriations and cut the budget in other ways.

He also said he wouldn’t support taking money from the tribe’s permanent fund to balance the budget.

“What are we going to do next year? . We just can’t rob Peter to pay Paul,” Nichols said.

The tribe’s budget must be approved before the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

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Information from: Tulsa World, https://www.tulsaworld.com


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