St. Thomas

St. John



Published: Jul 21, 2023

ST. CROIX – Members of the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands’ Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, led by Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened a meeting at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall regarding the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands. Lawmakers received testimony concerning the budgets of the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture, and the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center.

In block one, Louis Petersen, Jr., the Commissioner Nominee of the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture delivered testimony. The FY 2024 budget of $8,372,393 is a 28% increase from the FY 2023 Budget appropriation. The general fund request for the Department is $7,372,393. Furthermore, the department is scheduled to receive $1 Million from other Local Non-Appropriated Funds and an additional $1,115,689 in Federal funds, for a total funding level of $9,488.082.

The general fund request is broken down as follows: $4,424,729 is appropriated for personnel and fringe benefits. $265,876 is allocated for supplies, $160,000 is allocated for utilities, and $2,521,788 for other services. Other services are inclusive of $1,500,000 to support local farming initiatives, and $500,000 contributed to the Agriculture Revolving Fund. The Animal Shelter Services Contracts for $400,000 and operational/staff funds for the Industrial Hemp Program for $300,000 are under the Miscellaneous section, and an additional $1,000,000 from the Tourism Fund. The department also anticipates receiving $270,805 in non-appropriated funds from the Agriculture Revolving Fund, generated from the sales and services of planting materials such as seeds, seedlings, and trees to the community.

Additionally, federal grants funds already awarded such as the multi-year USDA Specialty Crops Grants, Forest Legacy Grants, Urban Forestry Grants, and other grants total $1,084,339. This results in $10,427,537 in funds available for FY 2024. There are 55 active positions in the Department. Of the active positions, 26 are exempt and 29 are classified. There are 18 vacancies. Of the vacancies, seven are exempt and 11 are classified. Of the active positions, 45 positions are in St. Croix, eight are in St. Thomas, and two are in St. John. Petersen stated that major challenges in the department were staff shortages, inadequate compensation levels, and outdated infrastructure.

In block two, Douglas Koch, the Chief Executive Officer of the Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center delivered testimony. The proposed Fiscal Year 2024 budget totals $88,116,899. JFL is currently on track to end FY 2023 at $82,614,570, which is $4,725,492 above the FY 2023 budgeted revenue. JFL’s Accounts Payable decreased from $25.3 Million to $17.6 Million as of the end of May 2023. This is a decrease of $7.7 million. The recommended General Fund appropriation is $28,750,000. Accounts payable have decreased from $54 Million to 17.6 million over the past 5 years. JFL continues to work with the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) regarding balances not paid.

Budgeted revenues for FY 2023 were $77.8 million and it is forecast to end the year with $82.6 Million, which represents a potential increase of $4.7 million. This is the second consecutive yearly revenue increase. Uncompensated care is projected to be $35.9 Million. The amount of interagency debt owed by government agencies is $1.3 million, not reflecting any bad debt prior to FY 2021. Boarders continue to be an issue at JFL. In May 2023, there were eight borders, costing the hospital approximately $402.527. Boarders negatively impact the hospital, including increased wait times, and lack of patient beds. Within that same month, 156 people left the hospital without being seen, resulting in a loss of potential income of $769,651. Salaries are budgeted at $35,644,038. Fringe benefits at $25,487,113, for a combined total personnel cost of $61,131,151. Supplies are budgeted at $10,710,378, other services at $11,391,451, and utilities at $4,883,918. There are 41 vacancies.

Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Diane T. Capehart, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. Degraff, Ray Fonseca, Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Franklin D. Johnson, and Carla J. Joseph.

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June 2024

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