Published: Jun 26, 2024

ST. THOMAS – The Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, under the leadership of Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory met in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall. Lawmakers received testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States for the Department of Public Works and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority.

Derek Gabriel, Commissioner of the Department of Public Works delivered its proposed FY 2025 budget totaling $23,246,320 from the General Fund. Additionally, it is recommended from the Office of Management and Budget that the department receive $1,000,000 from the Tourism Ad Revolving Fund, $1,225,000 from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund, and $500,000 from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund, which brings the total budget for the department to $25,971,320. Of the General Fund allotment, $7,559,307 is for Personnel Services, $3,727,235 is for fringe benefits, and $4,875,778 is for other services and charges. The other services and charges include Repairs and Maintenance $ 4,275,203, Rental Machines/Equipment $ 53,000, Training $ 60,000, Communication $ 209,000, Advertising and Promotion $ 15,000, Security Services $ 15,700, Transportation – Not Travel $ 12,000, Travel $ 50,000, Purchase Bulk Airline $ 40,300, Printing & Binding $ 1,000, and Professional Services $144,575. $898,000 is allotted for supplies, $886,000 for utilities (which includes $700,000 for electricity and $186,000 for water), $100,000 for capital outlays, $5,000,000 for new contribution to the Public Transportation Fund, and $200,000 for an inter-island subsidy. The department also has $168.641,000.09 in federal funds. The Department has 214 employees. There are 106 in St. Croix, ninety-one in St. Thomas, and seventeen in St. John. There are 140 classified employees, with sixty-seven in St. Croix, 58, in St. Thomas and fifteen in St. John. There are seventy-three exempt employees, with thirty-nine in St. Croix, thirty-two for St. Thomas, and two on St. John. There is one nonunion classified employee on St. Thomas. There are twenty-eight total vacancies, nine on St. Croix, thirteen on St. Thomas, and six on St. John. Gabriel said a major concern was that cemeteries in the territory were running out of space. Additionally, he voiced worry over the state of climate change’s effect as it pertains to unexpected weather events, such as the effects they have on the territory’s roadways. Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory voiced major concern that inter district transportation, particularly ferry service, was not optimal.

Roger Merritt, Jr., Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority delivered its Fiscal Year 2025 Budget request totaling $44,420,000. $32,620,000 is being requested from the General Fund. $5 Million is requested from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund. $3.8 million is from Utility Services, $1 Million is from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund, and $1 Million from the Sewer Wastewater Fund. The Authority generates $3.22 Million in Tipping Fees and other income to supplement the general fund appropriation. The total budget is $47,640.000. The Fiscal Year 2025 Budget General Fund appropriation had been reduced by $2,380,000 from Fiscal Year 2024. However, the authority received a new allotment of $3.8 Million for utility services which compensates for the decline. This will cover WAPA bills. The Anti-Litter funds appropriation of $5 Million is the same as previous years. The Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund is $500,000 for Fiscal Year 2024 and is expected to increase to $1 Million for Fiscal Year 2025. The St. John Capital Improvement Fund was budgeted for the first time since Fiscal Year 2021. $1 Million has been appropriated for the Wastewater User Fee.

The Waste Management Authority has 180 employees. Eighty-five are in the St. Thomas-St. John District, and ninety-five are in the St. Croix District. There were thirty-four new hires and seven internal promotions in the current fiscal year. Waste management has had concerns over vendor payments. Although $15 Million had been distributed for outstanding vendor payments via Act 8647, the authority still owes $14,840,236.74 to local contractors who helped the authority provide services during and after Hurricanes Irma and Maria and during the COVID pandemic. Additionally, Merritt asserts that the Public Services Commission has incorrectly calculated the Waste Management Authority’s annual assessment fee from Fiscal Years 2019 through Fiscal Year 2024 and prior years, saying it has been overcharged and urged for a correction of the figure.

Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carriόn, Dwayne M. Degraff, Ray Fonseca, Kenneth L. Gittens, Franklin D. Johnson, and Carla J Joseph.

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