The National Credit Union Administration is projecting budget increases of $6.1 million (2.1 percent) and $4.6 million (1.5 percent) for 2018 and 2019, respectively, according to a proposed budget released Friday.

The proposal’s release comes less than two weeks before the agency’s Oct. 18 budget briefing, and is notable in that it includes a net decrease of 42 full-time positions for 2018, along with an operating budget of $289.2 million. For 2019, the regulator is projecting a $302.8 million operating budget and a net decrease of 14 positions.

The proposed $4.6 million budget increase for next year is a decline from last year’s proposed budget, which had called for a $14 million increase in 2018. Additionally, the proposed 2018 budget includes primary reductions of nearly 60 positions to the regional field offices. This amounts to a 3.4 percent decrease in staffing, while pay and benefits will increase by 2.9 percent.

The 2019 budget requests further reductions of 15 field positions, leading to a proposed 1.2 percent decrease in staffing, while pay and benefits increase by 1.6 percent. This is part of field staffing reductions initiated in 2017 with the Examinations Flexibility Initiative, with the reduction of 47 staff between 2017 and 2018, as well as the agency’s previously announced plan to consolidate its field offices as part of a larger restructuring plan.

The proposal also included details about operational actions to improve the NCUA’s effectiveness called the Agency Reform Plan, which the board approved in July 2017.

These actions include consolidating regional offices. By eliminating offices in Albany, N.Y. and Atlanta, Ga. the agency will go from five to three regional offices. The remaining three regions in Alexandria, Va.; Austin, Texas; and Tempe, Ariz. will absorb the staff from the closing locations.

Continued push for transparency

NCUA will accept written comments on the proposed budget by email at until 5 p.m. EST Friday, Oct. 27. The agency said comments "should provide specific, actionable recommendations rather than general remarks about the size or structure of the budget."

“While final budget decisions remain with the Board, we look forward to hearing constructive comments from stakeholders,” J. Mark McWatters, NCUA board chairman, said in a press release. “The NCUA intends to continue its prudent stewardship of its finances, but suggestions for ways to make improvements will always be considered.”

The budget briefing on Oct. 18 are part of the public budget hearings the regulator has undertaken in its push for transparency initiated by former chairman (and now board member) Rick Metsger.

The major CU trade associations at press time had not yet delved deeply into the specifics of the proposal, but early reactions were positive.

“NAFCU and our members appreciate NCUA Chairman J. Mark McWatters and NCUA Board Member Rick Metsger's leadership and continued commitment to greater transparency regarding the budget process,” Dan Berger, president and CEO of the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions, said in a written statement. “We will review the budget in detail and look forward to relaying feedback during the Oct. 18 briefing.”

For its part, a representative from the Credit Union National Association said in an email to CU Journal that "CUNA has long advocated for consolidation of operations and improved efficiencies, and our initial analysis of the proposed budget shows the agency is headed in the right direction."