Published: Jun 21, 2024

ST. CROIX – The Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, under the leadership of Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory met in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room. Lawmakers received testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 Budget for the Virgin Islands of the United States for the Virgin Islands Energy Office, the Virgin Islands Public Services Commission, and the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Sandra Setorie, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Public Services Commission delivered its budget proposal. The Public Services Commission is completely funded through assessments on public service company revenue. The Commission has a staff of 12 full-time positions. The proposed FY 2025 Budget for the Commission totals $2,079,297.07. This includes personnel services to staff 13 positions, stipends for five commissioners who oversee regular and special meetings and any other meetings as necessary. This is also inclusive of fringe benefits, which includes the GERS contribution at 23.5%, actual premium health insurance, FICA, Social Security and Medicare at 7.65% and workers compensation. Utilities for two office sites as well as office supplies for those sites, legal periodicals, cleaning supplies, gas, and maintenance is included in the request. Additionally, the Professional Services category includes training, communication, transportation-non travel, travel, other services, such as stenographic services, and capital outlay, such as facility improvements, computer system purchase and upgrades, and office equipment.

Kyle Fleming, Director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office delivered its FY 2025 budget request of $1,556,269, which is a slight decrease from its FY 2024 budget of $1,576,804. Most of the budget has been allotted to personnel services, about 56%, or $873,489. Fringe benefits total $391,105. The remainder of the budget is used between supplies totaling $25,300, utility services totaling $14,000, and other services totaling $232,375.000. The Energy Office has 18 full-time positions. There are 14 unclassified and two classified employees.  15 staff members are funded through the general fund. Three are partially funded by the general fund. Two are wholly funded by federal funds. There are two vacant positions. The projected total from the General Fund and Federal Sources for Fringe Benefits is $501,602.00. Projected total for Personnel Services from Federal Sources and the General Fund is 1,118.974The other services category is derived mainly from office overhead costs to pay for the Office’s lease of two office spaces in St. Thomas and St. Croix, as well as a projected travel budget of $21,000.  

Joel Lee, Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Internal Revenue delivered its budget request of $12,958,658. This is fully funded from the General Fund. This figure has decreased from the FY 2024 budget recommendation which was $14,438,083.00. The majority of the Bureau’s budget request consists of personnel services, totaling $10,683,648.35. $7,062,186.90, for personnel and $3,621,461.45 for fringe benefits. This is 82.45% of the Bureau’s budget. Supplies are budgeted at $224,500, other services and charges at $1,906,908,45, utilities at $93,601.20, and expenditures at $50,000. There are 152 positions. 101 positions are in St. Thomas. 50 are in St. Croix, and 1 is in St. John. There are 31 vacancies. Personnel services will fund 134 positions. 112 positions are active. There are 22 vacancies. 18 positions will be eliminated due to the budget reduction. The supplies category includes day to day operating supplies, repair and maintenance items, small tools, minor equipment, and data processing software.  Other services and maintenance include repairs and maintenance comprised of IT maintenance, as well as funding for elevator maintenance, vehicle maintenance and the Bureau’s machine and equipment, such as postage meters.

Rental obligations include properties on St. Thomas and St. Croix, totaling $889,129.80 for FY 2025. $677,277.29 is allocated for the main St. Thomas office at East End Plaza. The Nisky Center rent of $51,462.51 covers off-site storage, and $12,000 for the excise tax office located at the Sandfill. On St. Croix, $4,400 is allocated for the cost of a self-storage facility and $12,000 for the new excise tax location at the Molasses pier. There is no rent due for the main St. Croix office.  Additionally, professional services of $113,802, which includes janitorial services, annual upgrades and maintenance, security services of $140,000 is included for armored transportation services, communication expenses of $220,000 for postage of mailing tax bills and other correspondence, as well as dedicated computer, telephone line and internet services payments. Travel and cash advances are budgeted at $30,000.00; advertising is budgeted at $10,000.00 and printing costs are budgeted at $5,000.00. Other services of $11,000 covers contingency costs associated with the opening of new excise locations on St. Thomas and St. Croix, as well as a retrofit of the Nisky Office. Utilities is set at $93,601,20, and Capital outlays is set at $50,000.

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

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