ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet convened at the Capitol Building on Friday. They received testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States (GVI). Invited testifiers were officials from the Department of Planning & Natural Resources (DPNR), the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts (VICA), the Virgin Islands Historic Preservation Committee, and the Bureau of Correction (BOC).
The Department of Planning & Natural Resources Commissioner, Jean-Pierre Oriol, stated that the governorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recommended budget for FY 2022 budget totals $27,931,170. The overall budget consists of 37.33% or $10,427,414 for the General Fund, $12,606,441 or 45.13% for federal assistance from grantor agencies, and $4,897,315 or 17.53% for Non-Appropriated Funds. In response to Sen. Marvin BlydenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inquiry regarding initiatives for FY 2022, Oriol indicated that the top priority is launching electronic applications to provide greater efficiency to the public. Applicants will be able to submit documents such as applications for permits and zoning certificates online at any time. The FY 2022 budget breakdown of the General Fund is as follows: $5,241,193 for personnel, $2,755,317 for fringe benefits, $176,041 for supplies, $1,860,863 for other services and charges, and $394,000 for utilities. Oriol mentioned that one of the major challenges facing DPNR is the shortage of staff. In a line of questioning, Sen. Vialet inquired about the breakdown of vacancies and how will DPNR fill new job openings when previous positions were not filled. DPNR Personnel Relations Coordinator noted that there are 76 vacancies, and 25 positions are new. Funding is available to hire existing and new vacancies.
To date, The Virgin Islands Council on the Arts completed and submitted the FY 2022 grant requests to the National Endowment of the Arts that must be matched with local monies. A total of $313,135 was awarded to cover costs for non-profits, artists, and organizations. Oriol noted that recommended FY 2022 budget for VICA totals $411,844 under the miscellaneous section of the budget. Some of the projects slated for FY 2022 include the Reichhold Center concerts, the Youth Art Month Exhibit, and the Kennedy Center Performance. Regarding the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), Oriol stated that SHPO provides mandatory Section 106 consultation reviews for federally funded projects in the Virgin Islands and provides Historic Preservation technical assistance to private property owners and GVI agencies.
Defending the governorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recommended FY 2022 budget, Bureau of Corrections Director Wynnie Testamark stated that budget is required to achieve BOCÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s five-year strategic plan. It is an investment in public safety. Furthermore, Testamark noted that the FY 2022 budget covers the costs for rehabilitation programs for inmates and staff for critical positions such as case management planners, transitional case managers, and social workers. Overall, for FY 2020, BOC has 289 budgeted positions, 177 are filled, and 112 are vacant. The proposed FY 2022 budget for the General Fund totals $45,827,260. This amount is an increase in comparison to the FY 2021 budget totaling $30,550,755. The FY 2022 budget breakdown is as follows: $18,637,995 for personnel services, $7,813,609 for fringe benefits, $2,410,300 for supplies, $16,015,356 for other services and charges, $550,000 for utilities, and $400,000 for capital outlays. Regarding BOC payroll practices, Sen. Vialet said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“There are issues of the time. The way the payroll is calculating is different from other entities. We need to have a separate meeting to review the numbers to justify the increase.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Senators attending the meeting: Chairman Kurt A. Vialet, Milton E. Potter, Carla J. Joseph, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Janelle K. Sarauw, Franklin Johnson, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Samuel CarriÃƒÂ³n, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Javan E. James, Sr., Kenneth L. Gittens and Marvin A. Blyden.