ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building and received testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States. Invited testifiers are officials from the Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE), the Virgin Islands Board of Education (BOE), and the Career and Technical Education Board (CTEB).
The governor’s recommendation for the Virgin Islands Department of Education General Fund appropriation totals $184,438,881. In comparison to the FY 2021 budget of $164,570,211, the FY 2022 budget represents a 12% or $19,868,670 increase, according to VIDE Deputy Commissioner of Fiscal and Administrative Services Ava Penn. The FY 2022 budget breakdown is as follows: $105,856,941 or 58% for personnel services, $55,277,961 or 30% for fringe benefits, $12,868,795 or 7% for other services, $5,679,464 or 3% for utilities, $2,443,220 or 1% for supplies, and $2,312,500 or 1% for miscellaneous. Defending the budget, VIDE Commissioner Raquel Berry-Benjamin stated that the major goals for VIDE are to re-imagine the school system which entails planning and providing training for school personnel throughout the year and to fill all vacancies. To date, there are 153 funded vacancies. Out of that, 21 vacancies are for teachers, specifically 14 in the St. Thomas-St. John District and seven in the St. Croix District. Berry-Benjamin indicated that overall, VIDE has 2,188 employees, of which 185 are exempt positions and 2,003 are classified positions.
Regarding Federal Funds, an estimated $32,909,539 is anticipated for FY 2022. VIDE Director of Federal Grants Kemo Smith noted that the breakdown is as follows: $27,404,520 received from the United States Department of Education (USED) and $5,350,607.92 from the United States of Agriculture (USDA). Presently, VIDE oversees funding from USED totaling $300,330,233 for sixteen federal grants and $8,124,640.92 for thirteen USDA federal grants. Moreover, Berry-Benjamin added that VIDE received $19,992,337 from the Cares I Education Stabilization Fund and $53,234,881 from the Cares II Education Stabilization Fund.
The Career and Technical Education Board Chairman Dr. Michael Francois stated that the governor’s proposed General Fund lumpsum for the FY 2022 budget totals $635,616. The budget represents a 14% or $78,086 increase compared to the FY 2021 budget totaling $557,530. CTEB is not slated to receive Federal Funds. Francois mentioned that some of the goals for FY 2022 are to increase instructor certification by 30%, increase student graduation CTE certifications or licenses by 20%, and improve communications/marketing. Similarly, the Virgin Islands Board of Education Chairman Kyza Callwood indicated that the FY 2022 recommended General Fund lump sum totals $1,937,038. In comparison to FY 2021 budget totaling $1,636,400, this is an increase of 18.37% or $300,638. Thus far, BOE has collected a total of $505,125.13 in student loan repayments as of June 30th.
Senators attending the meeting: Chairman Kurt A. Vialet, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Janelle K. Sarauw, Franklin D. Johnson, Genevieve R. Whitaker, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Kenneth L. Gittens, Carla J. Joseph, Javan E. James, Milton E. Potter, and Marvin A. Blyden.