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JUDICIAL BRANCH OF THE V.I., THE V.I. HOUSING FINANCE AUTHORITY, THE OFFICE OF ADJUTANT GENERAL, AND THE ELECTIONS SYSTEM OF THE VI SHARES FY 2021 BUDGET

Published: Sep 9, 2020

ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday to receive testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States. Invited testifiers are the Judicial Branch of the Virgin Islands (JBVI), the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, the Office of the Adjutant General (OTAG), and the Elections System of the Virgin Islands.

The governor’s recommended FY 2021 budget for the Judicial Branch of the Virgin Islands totals $31,825,388 to be disseminated as a lump sum. Out of that, $103,285 is for the Judicial Branch and $31,722,103 is for the Supreme Court. This is a significant decrease in comparison to the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation of $35,246,781. Honorable Rhys S. Hodge, Chief Justice of the Virgin Islands stated that the monies are insufficient for daily operations and JBVI was not consulted when the governor determined the budget. According to Hodge, the Judicial Branch can sufficiently operate with a minimal FY 2021 budget request of $39,179,342 or a 19% increase with an additional $118,292 or 13% increase for the Virgin Islands Judicial Council. The budget breakdown of the $39,179,342 is as follows: $21,163,105 for personnel, $8,917,274 for fringe benefits, $4,523,554 for other services and charges, $1,815,410 in projected capital expenditures, $2,100,000 for utilities, and $660,000 for supplies.

Daryl Griffith, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority noted that the governor’s proposed FY 2021 budget totals $20,621,289. The budget breakdown is as follows: $7,606,525 for personnel, $700,000 for capital outlays, $3,369,734 for fringe benefits, $106,000 for supplies, $8,524,030 for other services, and $315,000 for utilities. Griffith indicated that despite the recommended budget, VIHFA accumulated a deficit of $3.1 million since FY 2019. Hiring new employees for the CDBG-DR Program and for disaster-related programs in addition to repairing structures damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria are the reasons for the steep budget deficit. However, Griffith mentioned that in FY 2021 CDBG-DR, FEMA, and insurance proceeds will reimburse VIHFA for accrued expenses.

Office of the Adjutant General Brigadier General Kodjo Knox-Limbacker stated that the governor’s recommended budget for FY 2021 totals $1,813,127. Comparatively, to FY 2020 budget appropriation of $2,316,512 this is a decrease of $503,385 or 21.73%. Additionally, OTAG is slated to receive a total of $93,770,000 in Federal Funds managed by the United States Property and Fiscal Officer on behalf of the National Guard Bureau. Thus far, some of the accomplishments are inclusive of the reconciled FEMA Audit and paid vendors for repairs from the hurricanes in 2017, paid vendors for daily operational services for unpaid services since 2014, and to complete renovations, repairs, and maintenance for facilities in the St. Thomas-St. John District and the St. Croix District.

Lastly, Caroline Fawkes, Supervisor of Elections of the Elections System of the Virgin Islands mentioned that the governor’s proposed FY 2021 budget totals $2,144,000. The budget breakdown is as follows: $887,000 for personnel services, $50,000 for Capital Outlays, $265,400 for fringe benefits, $777,100 for professional services, $65,000 for supplies, and $99,500 for utilities. Challenges are inclusive of funding to fill vacancies such as legal counsel, encouraging voters to vote, and upgrading job descriptions.                                                                                                              ###

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