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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Fiscal board approves its own Puerto Rico budget

By The Star Staff

The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico during its public meeting Wednesday approved a proposed General Fund budget for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico’s fiscal year 2025 and submitted it to the island Legislature for its consideration.

The House of Representatives, however, had already approved a budget this week and sent it to the Senate.

The $13.1 billion budget approved by the oversight board for the island government’s day-to-day operations in the approaching new fiscal year, which starts on July 1, reflects a 3% spending increase from the current fiscal year. The board agreed to the government’s proposal to increase funding for the Education and Health departments, and for the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, as well as other priorities.

“The success of the Government and the Oversight Board in stabilizing and prioritizing Puerto Rico’s budget now enable the Government to invest in the areas where resources are needed most, particularly health and education,” said the oversight board’s executive director, Robert F. Mujica Jr. “The proposed budget will also invest in strengthening Puerto Rico’s foundation to achieve fiscal and financial responsibility and economic growth.”

“The fiscal stability we achieved together will allow the Government to increase spending for the recruitment of additional social workers and technicians for the elderly program, for Centers for Minor Victims of Sexual Aggression and for the recruitment of police officers, firefighters, and paramedics,” Mujica added. “It will continue to fund the civil service reform expansion and repairs in public schools, among other priorities.”

The largest share of the General Fund budget will be allocated to Education ($2.3 billion, or 18% of spending), public employee pensions ($2.2 billion, or 17% of spending), public safety ($1.4 billion, or 11% of spending), and health ($1.3 billion, or 10% of spending).

The University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) budget will remain at around $1.3 billion, and UPR could have access to an additional $102 million next year if it achieves agreed upon goals – just like in the current fiscal year. UPR is working with the oversight board on those goals for the next fiscal year, which are aimed at supporting economic development and addressing critical student, faculty and infrastructure needs.

The proposed budget includes over $560 million of additional funding from the current year for strategic investments directed toward initiatives that will benefit island residents, including $311 million for education, $170 million for health and social well being, $74 million for municipalities, and $87 million for infrastructure, including water and food safety.

The General Fund budget of $13.1 billion does not include $4.9 billion in Special Revenue Funds, which are revenue the government generates from fees and services dedicated to particular uses, or $15.4 billion in federal funds.

The oversight board will be working with the Legislature between now and June 26, when the Legislature submits its proposed budget to the board for consideration. By June 30, the oversight board will certify the fiscal year 2025 budget compliant with the Fiscal Plan for Puerto Rico and projected to take the total spending of the central government to some $33.3 billion.

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