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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmaker: Budget must be amended to address added burden on towns

Rep. Gretchen Hau Irizzary is seen with a group of graduating seniors.

By The Star Staff

Newly seated District 29 (Cidra and Cayey) Rep. Gretchen Marie Hau Irizarry said Monday that before the discussion of the budget for the next fiscal year, which takes place in the House of Representatives by constitutional provision, “it must be amended to defend the municipalities because they are carrying the burden of many functions and services for the public that correspond to the central government.”

In a press release, Hau gave as an example the serious state of the roads in large areas of the municipalities of Cidra and Cayey, as well as the state of public schools in that district.

“While it is a source of great satisfaction and joy to have attended some of the graduations in the district’s schools, the physical plant, materials and equipment leave much to be desired,” the lawmaker said. “Both municipalities do what they can with the little budget available because most [funds] remain in the bureaucracy of San Juan. A decentralization plan was presented last week and we welcome it with cautious hope and responsible oversight.”

Another issue that is most pressing in the 22 neighborhoods of Cayey and the 14 of Cidra, Hau said, is the situation of constant and reliable access to drinking water.

“They are two municipalities in the mountains, where citizens living in the highest areas have supply problems,” she said. “Of course, the invoices of the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) arrive without fail. This is how the service should be, without fail.”

The legislator added that communication with PRASA Executive President Doriel Pagán Crespo is good.

“Engineer Pagán Crespo knows about the situations, and we have met to discuss the different issues,” Hau said. “Of course, that must be put into action. We cannot be in the 21st century with communities lacking a constant supply of drinking water.”

The former executive director of the Puerto Rico Mayors Association said the creation of the fund that guarantees essential services in municipalities should function as a mechanism that finances the work done by municipalities in the face of the inefficiency of some state agencies.

“Naturally, what we are going to do must comply with PROMESA (the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act), which practically says that everything the board and the government do has to guarantee essential services,” Hau said, adding that as part of the budget review process she will present an analysis of the economic and social vulnerability of Cidra and Cayey, which can serve as an example for other municipalities.

“What we are looking for is for people to receive services, for government bureaucracy to be more flexible and less expensive,” she said.

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