NCUA Won't Hold Budget Forum
For the first time since the practice started in 2001, the agency isn't holding a public forum on the budget before it considers the spending plan.
NCUA Chairman Debbie Matz didn't make an announcement on the subject but responded to an inquiry from Credit Union Times.
She didn't elaborate on the reasons for not continuing the practice but in the past has been critical of it, saying it gives too much clout to representatives of those who are affected by the agency's decisions.
"Those being regulated will always advocate having the smallest budget possible. When I told regulators at other agencies about that process, they were horrified," Matz said last year.
Matz, who attended budget hearings when she was on the board from 2002-2005, has given the public numerous opportunities to give the agency input. At the four town hall meetings-three in person and one online-although the focus was on corporate credit unions, the discussions and questions and answer sessions focused on other subjects, including how the NCUA was performing and how well it was spending its money.
The NCUA Board is scheduled to discuss and vote on its 2010 budget at its Nov. 19 meeting.
The agency's current budget is $177.8 million, compared to $158.6 million last year.
Officials at CUNA, NAFCU and NASCUS said while they are disappointed that the budget meetings won't continue, they will find other ways to talk to agency officials about the budget.
"We supported having the meeting and saw it as a useful exercise," said CUNA Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel Mary Mitchell Dunn. "Our goal is transparency, and if we don't feel we are getting adequate information, we will convey that."
NAFCU Senior Counsel and Director of Regulatory Affairs Carrie Hunt said she has found the agency willing to discuss concerns on a range of issues but wants to make sure that it communicates its decisions effectively.
"While there will be a change in moving from an 18-month to a 12-month exam cycle and we want to monitor how that works, we also want to see that there is a consistency in the examination process. We want to make sure that when the people in the headquarters make a decision, it is communicated to the examiners, and we sometimes hear from our members that that doesn't happen," she said.
NASCUS President/CEO Mary Martha Fortney said while her organization "appreciated the opportunity to comment in advance, I look forward to listening to the budget presentation at the November meeting."
The public's comments have changed the agency's budget priorities.
Last year, the board approved a 12% increase in its budget, though the agency had originally proposed a 15% hike. Agency officials cut spending following complaints by the trade associations that the increase would be burdensome for many credit unions, which are facing challenges because of the recession.
Former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar, who began the practice of holding budget hearings, said he found they forced the agency to be especially rigorous in setting its spending plans and also helped people understand how the agency worked.
"It was key to improving our image on Capitol Hill and with our stakeholders," he said.
Dollar added that he received comments about the budget whenever he spoke to credit union groups.
"I seldom escaped questions on it, wherever I went. And that was at a time when we were cutting the size of the agency. She [Matz] will certainly hear from people at a time when the budget is going up," he said.