ST. THOMAS – Members of the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, led by Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building. Senators received testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands. The Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD), and the Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) defended their budgets.
The Governor’s recommended FY 2024 budget for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources totals $9,063,584 for the General Fund. Compared to the FY 2023 appropriation of $8,453,913, this is an increase of $609,411 or 6.72%, according to Jean-Pierre L. Oriol, Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. Defending the budget increase, Oriol noted that the General Fund appropriation includes a mandatory match for numerous federal awards, including the Virgin Islands Historic Preservation Commission, Tutu Wells Mitigation Site, and the Virgin Islands Council on the Arts.
Furthermore, DPNR justified the additional funding to utilize for the FY 2024 initiatives per division. The breakdown of the FY 2024 General Fund is as follows: $6,519,059 for personnel and fringe benefits; $165,011 for supplies; $668,000 for utilities; $1,211,254 for other services and charges; and $500,000 for capital outlays. Senator Frett-Gregory inquired about the increase in capital outlays. In response, Oriol stated that DPNR anticipates going out to bid for construction on the WAPA project. The $500,000 assists DPNR with closing the financial gap required to execute the project. Senator Frett-Gregory advised DPNR to set an internal policy for delinquencies for unpaid balances on submerged lands. She stated that DPNR is requesting a lot of money for capital outlays that can be substituted with payments for submerged lands.
Ray Martinez, Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Police Department, stated that the VIPD’s recommended FY 2024 Budget totals $75,528,688. However, the Governor’s recommended General Fund budget is $74,291,834. Compared to FY 2023 appropriations totaling $71,408,604, this is an increase of 4%, or $2,883,230. In addition to the General Fund, VIPD anticipates $4,248,538 from the Federal Funds, $850,000 from the Tourism Advertising Fund, and $386,854 from the Peace Officer Training Fund. The breakdown of the General Fund budget is as follows: $40,666,030 for personnel services; $15,412,790 for fringe benefits; $4,938,298 for supplies; $11,113,400 for other services; $2,111,316 for utilities; and $50,000 for capital outlays. Furthermore, the General Fund also includes $100,000 for crime stoppers, $40,000 for the St. Thomas Police Activities League, $40,000 for the St. Croix Police Activities League, $1,826,694 for the Consent Decree, $90,000 for the St. Croix Weed and Seed Program, and $90,000 for the St. Thomas Weed and Seed Program. Martinez noted that overtime for police officers can run over $500,000, specifically for carnival events in collaboration with the Division of Festivals.
Angela Lloyd-Campbell, Director of the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, stated that the Governor’s recommended FY 2024 budget totals $788,392 from the General Fund. The appropriation is the same compared to FY 2023. Additionally, LEPC is slated to receive $7,495,825 in Federal Funds for a combined sum of $8,284,217. The breakdown of the General Fund is as follows: $457,920 for personnel services; $208,739 for fringe benefits; $8,768 for supplies; $97,965 for other services; $15,000 for utilities; and $0 for capital outlays. Senator Frett-Gregory urges LEPC to determine the total administration costs for the committee to understand the overall operational costs.
Senators present at the meeting are Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Jr., Diane T. Capehart, Samuel Carrión, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Kenneth L. Gittens, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger Javan E. James, Sr., and Carla J. Joseph.