Published: Jul 10, 2024

St. Thomas – Members of the Committee on Budget, Appropriation, and Finance, chaired by Senator Donna Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building. Officials from the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections (BOC) and the Virgin Islands National Guard (VING) testified on the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands.

In defending the FY 2025 Governor’s recommended budget totaling $36,408,693, Wynnie Testamark, Director of the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections, stated that the budget methodically supports prison security, comprehensive inmate services, and rehabilitation programs to include educational and vocational training, re-entry services, counseling and mentoring, and partnerships with communities. Compared to FY 2023, the budget remains the same. Testamark attributed this to BOC’s continuous efforts to secure grant funding to counterbalance the General Fund. However, Senator Frett-Gregory expressed concern about the reorganization of funds and the consistency of the FY 2025 budget. Separately, the FY 2025 budget breakdown is as follows: $6,098,387 for fringe benefits, $1,682,201 for supplies, $14,235,571 for other services, $200,000 for capital projects, $300,000 for utility services, and $13,892,534 for personnel.

Currently, there are a total of 214 job positions at BOC. Out of those, 197 have been filled, and there are 17 vacancies. In a line of questioning, Senator Frett-Gregory inquired about the total number of positions separated and the amount of overtime funds used this fiscal year. In response, Phillis Hodge-Gumbs, Human Resources Manager at BOC, stated that there are 32 separated positions. Chief Strategy Officer/Acting PIO Dr. Kyza A. Callwood reported a total overtime expenditure of $3,697,621.86, with an expected increase of $1.6 million by the end of the fiscal year. Separately, compared to the FY 2024 supplies category totaling $3,683,000, there is a reduction of 54.33% for FY 2025. Senator Frett-Gregory inquired about the $2,000,799 deduction for supplies. Dr. Callwood explained that they use the funds for office supplies, maintenance and repairs, food and catering, medical supplies, periodicals, and clothing. Testamark clarified that the decrease stems from acquiring newer, low-maintenance vehicles and procuring numerous supplies in FY 2024. Ultimately, Frett-Gregory requested that BOC submit the fiscal categories and expenditures, which will enable the Senate to review and make an informed decision on the budget.

To maintain an Army and Air National Guard Joint Force that is ready, relevant, and responsive and could project force globally, the Governor’s recommendation for the Virgin Islands National Guard FY 2025 budget is $2,931,474, according to Major General Kodjo S. Knox-Limbacker, the 15th Adjutant General and Commander of VING. This is in addition to an estimated $50,800,000 from the federal government. Nikita Ward, Executive Director of the Office of the Adjutant General, noted that the United States Property and Fiscal Officer, acting on behalf of the National Guard Bureau, will receive and oversee the anticipated $50,800,000 in federal funds for FY 2025. The Office of the Adjutant General, through its planned budget of $2,931,474, will carry out the Master Cooperative Agreement Program’s cost share of $776,000.00 in federal money. The FY 2025 budget breakdown is as follows: $1,131,281 for personnel, $501,492 for fringe benefits, $141,160 for supplies, $220,180 for capital projects, and $937,361 for other services.

Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Javan E. James, Sr., and Carla J. Joseph, Franklin D. Johnson, Alma Francis Heyliger.

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