V.I. Housing Authority OKs 2014 budget

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The Virgin Islands Housing Authority in a special meeting Thursday signed off on a proposed $25.9 million budget for 2014.

Kimberly Wize, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official who oversees the V.I. Housing Authority and acts as its board, approved the budget after Housing Authority Executive Director Robert Graham offered a brief executive summary on Wednesday. The proposed budget now will have to go to HUD for final approval.

The Housing Authority's fiscal year is the same as the calendar year.

The proposed budget projects total revenue for 2014 of $25,956,317, with total expenses projected at $25,092,199, for an anticipated positive cash flow of $613,720.

"We have a comparison analysis between 2013 and 2014, and the biggest difference is that we have a projected loss in rental income," Graham said.

Housing Authority figures show that the authority's rental income in 2012 was $5.6 million, but it dropped to $4.8 million in the revised 2013 budget.

For the proposed 2014 budget, rental income is expected to drop again, to $4,548,586.

"It's because on recertification, residents are reporting less household income. That could be due to unemployment, working less hours - just the economic impact," Graham told The Daily News.

The rents public housing residents are charged are based on their incomes, and some residents do not pay rent at all.

The trend of lower reported household income among public housing residents involves both St. Thomas and St. Croix, according to Graham.

The proposed 2014 budget also includes a higher operating subsidy from HUD, up by about $1.1 million, to make up for the lower rental income, which was expected to be down by about the same amount when compared with 2012.

For 2013's revised budget, HUD provided a subsidy of $18.8 million, and in the proposed 2014 budget, the subsidy is $19.9 million.

The $19.9 million anticipated for 2014 is about 82 percent of the amount the authority would be eligible for under the formula for figuring operating subsidies from HUD, according to Graham. That percentage takes into account budget cuts and the sequestration that were instituted in 2013.

Graham also highlighted the cost of utilities.

Notably, at $11,215,364, utilities comprise about 43 percent of the Housing Authority's proposed 2014 operating budget.

However, that figure is down by $912,324 from the revised 2013 budgeted utility expense of $12,127,688.

The lower utility expense projected for 2014 reflects savings the authority hopes to realize, with projects aimed at water-leak detection and repairs, as well as a project to recommission the cisterns at Oswald Harris Court housing community on St. Thomas and construct a small reverse osmosis facility there. That facility and the recommissioning of the cisterns is to be paid for with a Clean Water Act grant through the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Graham said.

"We do expect to see a reduction in utility cost," he said.

Overall, the proposed 2014 budget projects $4,548,586 in rental income; $19,925,772 in HUD operating subsidy; $584,029 in other income; and $897,930 in operating revenue, for $25.9 million total revenue.

On the expense side, the proposed 2014 budget anticipates $5,875,332 in administrative expenses; $438,217 in resident services expenses; $11,215,364 in utilities; $5,677,040 in maintenance expenses; $1,156,861 in insurance expenses; and $729,385 in general expenses, for total operating expenses of $25,092,199.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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