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GOVERNOR’S FINANCIAL TEAM SHARES UPDATED FY 2022 BUDGET

Published: Aug 31, 2021

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, convened in a Budget Wrap Up meeting at the Capitol Building and met with the Governor’s Financial Team to receive an update on the proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States (GVI). The Governor’s Financial Team comprises of officials from the Office of Management Budget (OMB), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Virgin Islands Division of Personnel, the Virgin Islands Public Finance Authority, the Virgin Islands Department of Finance, the Virgin Islands Bureau of Economic Research, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, and the Office of Collective Bargaining.

“There is a lot of work that goes into marking up and preparing the FY 2022 Budget. We want to be as close as possible to projecting the revenues for GVI,” Senator Vialet said. “As lawmakers, we must vet and review all the categories to determine how much money to give to each department.”

Due to the adverse economic impacts credited to the recent closure of the Limetree Bay Oil Refinery operations and decreased business operations because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria, OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal noted that there is a reduction in the updated proposed FY 2022 budget compared to the original budget presented at the Budget Overview hearing held by the Committee on Finance on June 2021. During that meeting, the Governor’s Financial Team shared that the FY 2022 budget totaled $1,485,472,985. Presently, the updated FY 2022 budget for the General Fund totals $945,022,947 representing a difference of $17,997,524. O’Neal mentioned that inclusive of the budget are $119,896,918 for other Appropriated Funds, $58,338,035 for other Non-Appropriated Funds, and $1,377,220,971 for Federal Funds. In response to Senator Vialet’s inquiry regarding the custodian of COVID-19 Funds, O’Neal noted that OMB provides oversight for federal funding such as COVID-19, the CARES ACT, and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

Defending the FY 2022 updated budget, O’Neal stated that adjustments were made to decrease government expenditures. Some of the adjustments are inclusive of the reduction of vacancies by 50% in which employees will be hired at the start or end of the fiscal year as needed per department. Furthermore, a total of $4,549,860 covers the increase of health insurance costs, $1,000,000 for Crime Stoppers, $220,000 for training and equipment for BIR, and $560,900 to purchase new vehicles and an excavator for the Department of Sports, Parks, and Recreation. Moreover, O’Neal indicated that the revenue projections are reduced by 2% or $18,000,000 bringing the updated total to $945,022,952 inclusive of $30,000,000 from ARPA to offset the loss of revenues. As a result of the Limetree Bay Oil Refinery closure resulting in a mass termination of employees and the lack of refinery operation payments to the Government of the Virgin Islands, O’Neal noted that there is an 11% decline in the monthly collection of Income Taxes and a 17% reduction for other revenue projections.

Separately, lawmakers received testimony regarding the Fiscal Year 2021 Supplemental Budget Request. Bill No. 34-0106 as substituted to amend Act Nos. 8347 and 8365 as amended by Act Nos. 8411 and 8451 as it relates to the operating budget of the Schneider Regional Medical Center and the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital. Additionally, Act No. 8384 as amended by Act No. 8469 regarding the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. O’Neal indicated that OMB is requesting $13,857,170, a reduction compared to the initial request of $24,423,321 to be allocated to the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, the hospitals, and fourteen agencies, and departments. This is in addition to appropriation transfers for line items within BIR, the Department of Justice, the Department of Human Services, the Department of Public Works, and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. The supplemental budget request provides funding for recipients to pay outstanding government debts and obligations. O’Neal stated that the funds will remain accessible until utilized or through March 2022.

Senators attending the meeting: Chairman Kurt A. Vialet, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Janelle K. Sarauw, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, and Marvin A. Blyden. However, Senator Javan E. James, Sr. was excused.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         ###

 

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