Senate Finance Committee completes FY 2014 budget hearings
Published: September 2, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - Last week, the V.I. Senate Finance Committee conducted the last of its hearings about the Fiscal Year 2014 budget.
The Senate now will take the proposed budget into mark-up this week.
Budgets reviewed this week included:
The Agriculture Department is requesting a budget of about $3.6 million for FY 2014, which would include about $2.5 million from the General Fund. The appropriated amount from the General Fund would be a decrease of about $197,000 from its FY 2013 budget.
However, the department is expected to receive additional local and federal funds in the amount of $861,000, as well as about $350,000 from miscellaneous funding.
The decrease most significantly will impact personnel services, which will take a 10 percent cut, according to budget testimony by Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen Jr.
The staff cuts likely will make the department's efforts more difficult, and Peterson said that the tasks at hand already are tough because the department's personnel level has decreased by 31 percent since 2009.
Additionally, many of the most experienced staff have retired, resigned or have been dismissed, which means there is a greater need for training among staff, he said.
During the next fiscal year, the department hopes to develop and strengthen local, regional, national and international networks; promote the preservation and conservation of farmland, forested areas and natural resources; promote the benefits of locally produced agricultural products; and encourage agriculture-based business enterprises.
The department especially hopes to increase the capacity for water storage and increase its ability to distribute water to the farmers who need it.
St. Thomas East End Medical Center
The St. Thomas East End Medical Center is seeking a budget of about $4.3 million for FY 2014, which would include about $1.7 million in the form of a V.I. government grant, about $2 million in income and about $676,000 from a federal grant.
The program's income is generated from about $688,000 in Medicaid revenue, $98,000 in Medicare revenue, $806,000 in self-pay revenue and about $374,000 in commercial insurance.
In FY 2013, the medical center had about 14,000 visits, with about 39 percent of the visitors living below the poverty level.
The center's largest cost is personnel salaries, which cost about $1.9 million for 34.5 full-time employees.
Frederiksted Health Care Inc.
The Frederiksted Health Care Inc., a nonprofit, is asking for about $2.2 million, about $238,000 more than Gov. John de Jongh Jr. recommended.
Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jamila Benn said in her testimony before the V.I. Senate Finance Committee that the center had undergone tremendous growth, including in its dental office, in the past two years. The center received almost 18,000 patient visits in the past year.
Since 2012, the center expanded its services, resumed its nutritional counseling services and added a site to its facilities, one located on the east end of St. Croix.
Board of Education
The V.I. Board of Education is requesting an FY 2014 appropriation of about $2 million, which represents a 6 percent decrease compared to the current fiscal year's budget.
The board intends to address high drop out rates in the coming school year, which begins Tuesday.
The board also wants to promote graduation exit plans, or plans for high schoolers leaving high school. The plan is to be regularly approved by the student, a parent and a guidance counselor who will track the student's progress.
- The Crucian Christmas Festival Organization is requesting $300,000, which is substantially less than its budget for FY 2013 in the amount of $400,250.
The organization, however, is expecting to receive $275,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund.
- The St. John Festival and Cultural Organization, which organizes events for the Fourth of July Festival, Labor Day and Christmas on St. John, is requesting $394,250 more than Gov. John deJongh Jr.'s recommended amount for FY 2014.
The organization is requesting $650,000, and deJongh recommended instead a General Fund appropriation of $255,750, the same amount appropriated for FY 2013. The organization also would receive $75,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund.
- The Virgin Islands Carnival Committee is asking for a General Fund appropriation of $350,000. The committee also is expected to receive $300,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund.
Sen. Clifford Graham asked the committee in March to submit a detailed report of its accomplishments during FY 2013, as well as a list of FY 2014 goals. Neither item had been submitted as of last week.
Bureau of Information Technology
The Bureau of Information Technology proposed a slightly diminished appropriation for FY 2014. The bureau is asking for about $2.3 million for the upcoming fiscal year, as opposed to $2.4 million during the current one.
The bureau has 17 positions that it currently funds in an effort to maintain a "comprehensive technology plan," according to its report. However, with a dwindling budget, it has struggled in recent years to keep the technology up to speed and up to date.
Office of the Adjutant General
The Office of the Adjutant General is requesting an appropriation of about $1.4 million for FY 2014. The budget would represent a 5 percent drop from this fiscal year.
The office oversaw the completion of the Regional Training Institute, which had a ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 15. It since has been unoccupied, however, because of an issue with the water pump system.
Construction of the Joint Forces Headquarters building is ongoing, according to the office's report.
V.I. Taxi Cab Commission
For FY 2014, the V.I. Taxi Cab Commission is asking for an appropriation of $634,000 from the General Fund, about $1,000 more than its budget during FY 2013.
The commission said that it would use funds in the upcoming fiscal year to launch its own website and to create an electronic filing system, which could help the commission better track the licensing of taxicab drivers.
The commission noted that they have had increasing issues with "gypsy" taxis, or unlicensed taxicabs, which hamper the business of licensed taxicab drivers.
Law Enforcement Planning Commission
Victor Browne, director of the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, requested a budget of about $590,000, of which $415,000 would be used for personnel costs, $73,800 for rent and $50,000 for electricity payments. The budget request is about $8,000 more than that of the current fiscal year.
The commission is comprised of 10 employees, seven of whom are covered by the commission's budget and three of whom are covered by federal grants that total about $146,000.
The commission primarily is responsible for acquiring grants for the V.I. Justice Department and other justice-related programs.
Public Employees Relations Board
The Public Employees Relations Board is requesting about $1.1 million from the FY 2014 General Fund, the same amount as the appropriation from the FY 2013 budget.
The board aims to meet more often during the upcoming fiscal year and to expedite the handling of board cases.
For a full look at the last few weeks of budget hearings before the V.I. Senate's Finance Committee, visit www.legvi.gov.