Published: Jun 20, 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 budget for the Virgin Islands of the United States for the Department of Finance, the Public Finance Authority, and the Office of Disaster Recovery.  

A motion was made to remove the budget hearing of the Office of Management and Budget from the agenda. The previous director, Jenifer O’Neal recently resigned and an acting director, Kimika Woods was designated. The budget hearing for the Office will be heard at a future date.  

Kevin McCurdy, Commissioner of the Department of Finance detailed the Fiscal Year 2025 budget request, which totaled $14,060,207. Of this amount, $12,982,360 comes from the General Fund. $969,347 comes from the Government Insurance Fund, and $108,500 comes from the Indirect Cost Fund. The Department has 62 full-time employees. 44 are on St. Thomas, and 15 are on St. Croix. 33 positions are classified and 29 are unclassified. There are five vacancies. The 62 positions and five vacancies are funded by the general fund at $3,438,695, and the Government Insurance Fund of $412,205. Projected fringe benefits for Fiscal Year 2025 are projected at $1,625,500. Supplies are budgeted at $348,491.00. Other services and charges are budgeted at 1,720,073, which will be used for professional services, security guard services, training initiatives, travel, communication services, and repair and maintenance services. The miscellaneous budget request of $5,959,743 was merged within the budget category, resulting in a general fund request increase. Proposed utility cost is $300,000. Proposed capital outlay is $147,000. 

Senator Frett-Gregory remained concerned about fund balances. Additionally, she asked the Department to properly break down each individual budget category in detail. There was an additional concern over bounced checks.  

Nathan Simmonds, Director of Finance and Administration at the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority detailed the Authority’s budget. The Public Finance Authority’s Board of Directors met on May 30, 2024 to approve its Fiscal Year 2025 Budget, in the amount of $27.42 Million, which is a 40% increase, or increase of $7.84 million from FY 2024. This is due primarily to increased funding required for the Office of Disaster Recovery as it becomes a subrecipient for the CDBG-DR program administered under the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, and the build out of the Super Management Office. The budget will be used to fund the business operations of the Authority and the Office of Disaster Recovery, including professional services, payroll, IT upgrades, building and property maintenance, and training expenses. The Public Finance Authority is under the direction of an Executive Director and the Board of Directors that is chaired by the Governor of the United States Virgin Islands.  

The proposed FY 2025 annual budget of $27.42 Million is funded with $5 Million from Gross Receipts Taxes, a request for $9 Million in General Fund Appropriations, 11.52 million from federal reimbursements, $1.81 Million from the PFA Project fund, and $85,000 from Frederiksted Mall Revenue. Under the administration category, it provides funding for staff salaries, fringe benefits, IT infrastructure and maintenance, utilities, communications, building maintenance, and staff training. The total budget for this category was $3.3 Million in Fiscal Year 2024. It increased to $5.53 million for Fiscal Year 2025. This increase has been attributed primarily to funding for vacant positions, board of directors’ expenses, IT infrastructure and website maintenance, communication and office supplies, financial system upgrades, and upgrades to the St. Thomas and St. Croix offices.  The total budget for Professional Services was $6.19 million in Fiscal Year 2024. This increased to 6.85 million in Fiscal Year 2025. This includes funding for accounting and auditing services, financial advisory services, bond counsel, municipal tax attorneys, other legal advisors, investments advisors, trustees and bank custody fees, project evaluation and underwriting services.  

Separately, Adrienne Williams-Octalien, Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery detailed their FY 2025 budget. $4 Million is from the General Fund. It anticipates $11.52 million in federal reimbursements, which totals a total budget of $15.52 Million for Fiscal Year 2025. In Fiscal Year 2024, the Office was funded by $2.5 Million from the General Fund, and $7.57 million in Federal funds, for a total budget of $10.74 million. In Fiscal Year 2024, the total operating expenses of the Office are $10,074,195. The proposed FY 2025 budget has been increased by 54.3%, or $5.44 million from the previous year. There are 56 active employees at the Office. There are 12 vacancies. All positions are federally funded. The budget will be used to cover expenses such as payroll, staff training, office space and maintenance, equipment, travel, and administrative expenses.  

Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Diane T. Capehart, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Javan E. James, Sr., and Carla J. Joseph. 

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