ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance, led by Senator Kurt Vialet convened in a meeting at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall.
The Committee received testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States from the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Finance, and the Public Finance Authority.
Jenifer C. O’Neal, the Director of the Office Management of Budget delivered testimony. The Department’s proposed budget totaled $52.9 Million for Fiscal Year 2023. $8.4 Million of this is specifically intended to fund the operations of the Department. The remaining $44.5 Million has been budgeted for numerous purposes, including wage adjustments and appropriations for non-for-profit entities. The day-to-day operations of the Department for Fiscal Year 2023 is $6,325,296, from the general fund, which is a 36% decrease from the Fiscal Year 2022 budget appropriation of $9,813,506, and $2,087,039 from the indirect cost fund. The Personnel Services Budget category funds 59 full time positions, which includes 22 new and vacant positions, of which 19 are unclassified/exempt and three classified/nonunion positions. Currently, the department consists of 26 unclassified/exempt positions and 11 classified/non-union positions.
Bosede Bruce, the Commissioner of Finance delivered testimony. The Department currently consists of a team of 48 full time employees, 36 on St. Thomas and 12 on St. Croix. The total proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023 is $22,033,714. Fifty-six positions are currently funded in the amount of $2,938,154, with forty-five positions on St. Thomas and eleven on St. Croix. The budget reports 19 vacancies, with 8 new positions. Five offer letters were extended. The remaining positions with adequate funding were advertised to the public.
Nathan Simmonds, Director of Finance and Administration of the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority also delivered testimony. A budget of $14.1 Million has been requested, which represents a 7.5% or $989,800 increase from Fiscal Year 2022. This budget will be used to fund business operations of the Authority and the Office of Disaster Recovery to include office expenses, payroll, and administrative expenses. Within the administration category, the total budget was $3.010 million. For Fiscal Year 2023, this will increase to $3.46 Million. The increase is due to funding for four new positions, as well as infrastructure updates, including training communications, and office upgrades. The Office of Disaster Recovery, which falls under the VIPFA, requires funding of $2 million from the general fund, as well as $2.1 million in anticipated federal reimbursements, totaling $4.1 million for Fiscal Year 2023 for the Office of Disaster Recovery. It will be used to conduct business within the department, funding 6 new and vacant positions, and covering expenses such as payroll, staff training, office spaces and other related items.
Adrienne Williams-Octalien, the Director of the Virgin Islands Office of Disaster recovery delivered additional testimony supporting the budget request. The operating budget was $3,110,200, with a current expenditure of $1,314,227 as of April 30, 2022. According to Director Williams-Octalien, the office identified areas in which there were problems with contracting, design, permitting, and payment processing due to lack of capacity. It is expected that approximately $1.63 Billion will be expended in Fiscal Year 2023 across recovery programs.
Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Kurt Vialet, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr, Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Carla J. Joseph, and Janelle K. Sarauw.