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Budget Approved

By E. Bowers

HOLLYWOOD – The Tribal Council and Board of Directors had a busy week, passing combined budgets totaling nearly $200 million.

First, the Council met on June 23 to discuss the upcoming year 2000 Tribal budget.

Seminole gaming, which accounted for 94.6 percent of the Tribal budget, may receive another boost in the arm with the possible addition of more machines in the Hollywood Casino.

The Council also heard discussion about a $160 million hotel and casino on the reservation here.

Larry Frank, director of Hollywood Gaming, stated that there is room for at least 400 machines in the Hollywood facility without having to add onto the building.

Chief Financial Officer Ted Boyd said the planned hotel and casino is 2-3 years away. Boyd said he expects the financial package to be resolved in six to nine months. The casino, he said, “will result in a dramatic increase again in Tribal income.” He also stated that Tribal distribution amounts would remain the same.

Meanwhile, the Board of Directors, meeting on June 25, also passed a FY 2000 budget, and discussed a proposed hotel in Immokalee.

According to President Mitchell Cypress, the Board will focus in the coming year on how to expand some of its programs and bring in more revenue.

The Board tabled a feasibility study for a proposed four-story, 100 room hotel in Immokalee. The proposal also includes 150 parking spaces on 6-8 acres. The $8,000 study is needed in order to qualify for possible development grants. The matter was tabled to determine whether Tribal resources could be utilized in place of the study.

Education Budget Presented

Education Director Willie Johns presented the Council with an Education budget that he said was ”no fluff, raw bone.” Johns listed the numbers of students who were receiving assistance. According to Johns, there were five vocational graduates, 10 GED graduates, eight college graduates, and 67 Tribal members currently enrolled in college.

Chairman James Billie stated that while education was still a priority, the Tribe would implement a much “sterner system.”

“The free-for-all days are gone, at least in education,” Billie said. “Now, we will re-define our priorities.”

Billie noted that the Tribe had “wasted a lot of time and monies” assisting Tribal members who never completed their education commitments.

“A lot of these people signed up for school, received the checks, and then dropped out leaving the Tribe holding the bag,” the Chairman said.

According to Billie, parents who want to send their children to private schools will have to pay the tuition out of their own dividends for a period of time to show confidence in the student.

New Accounting System

Information Systems Consultant Dan Wisher told the Council that a new accounting system is only one month away. Wisher said the new system will allow instantaneous budget analysis.

Wisher also estimated that he and his department had saved the Tribe $6.7 million, and $110 million in risk exposure.

Board

Richard Bowers presented a reworked version of the Cattle Raisers’ Agreement to the Board. The agreemenet incorporates changes suggested by Chairman Billie at the last Board Meeting. The new agreement calls for the elimination of the heifer program, land use, cattle committees, and grazing fees.

The agreement also included the option to be independent, mandatory resource protection, and technical assistance to cattle owners. The agreement will be discussed further before its submission deadline to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In other action, the Board:

*Assigned Business Lease no. 197, a cigarette shop, from Roberta Gopher to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Inc.

*Issued a billboard permit to Compass Outdoor. The five-year, revocable permit was awarded to the advertising firm who submitted the highest bid for the location north of Stirling Road and east of Florida’s Turnpike.

*Welcomed Linda Osceola Fedrick (Ah We Lah Ye), who moved to Alaska more than 23 years ago. Linda was in town with her husband, Robert Mike Fedrick, to visit family and friends.

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