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 a meeting at the Capitol Building. Policymakers received testimony regarding the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands from the V.I. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the V.I. Office of the Adjutant General.
The Governor’s recommended FY 2024 Budget for the Virgin Islands Department of Justice totals $19,936,110 from the General Fund. Compared to the FY 2023 appropriation of $19,260,621, this is a $675,489 or 3.51% increase. In addition to the General Fund, DOJ anticipates $8,400,705 from Federal Funds and $181,500 from the Paternity and Child Support Fund, for a combined sum of $28,518,316 for Fiscal Year 2024, according to Ariel M. Smith, the Attorney General at DOJ. The breakdown of the General Fund is as follows: $10,946,831 for personnel, $4,106,199 for fringe benefits, $319,116 for supplies, $4,265,848 for other services, and $298,116 for utilities. To date, DOJ has 84 employees, 70 of whom are federally funded, 13 new hires, and 10 vacancies. Although DOJ has implemented numerous recruitment strategies, employee retention is challenging due to uncompetitive salaries.
Specifying the medical examiner vacancies, Senator Frett-Gregory advised DOJ to develop a succession plan by partnering with the University of the Virgin Islands to identify two individuals, whether they are private, public, or parochial students, and sponsor their education in exchange for their services upon graduating. “We need to grow and groom medical examiners and engineers to ensure the positions are filled once separation occurs. Currently, autopsies are only conducted on St. Thomas due to the lack of a medical examiner on St. Croix. Smith stated that the cost to transfer a body from St. Croix to St. Thomas ranges from $1900 to $2300. To reduce costs, DOJ is in the process of recruiting a Territorial Examiner.
Major General Kodjo S. Knox-Limbacker, the 15th Adjutant General and Commander of the Virgin Islands Army and Air National Guard noted that the recommended FY 2024 totals $2,716,886 for the General Fund. The breakdown of the General Fund is as follows: $1,087,390 for personnel, $488,881 for fringe benefits, $124,450 for supplies, and $220,346 for capital projects The General Fund also includes a miscellaneous budget appropriation of $60,000 for the Virgin Islands National Guard Pension Fund and $200,500 for the Youth About Face and Forward March Program. In compliance with the Master Cooperative Agreement Program, GVI must provide matching funds for expenditures that are not fully federally funded. In this case, the $2,716,886 is a match for the $679,616 of Federal funds for FY 2024. Overall, VING is anticipating a total of $52,800,000 in Federal Funds. Senators present at the meeting: Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Kenneth L. Gittens, Marise C. James, Javan E. James, Sr., and Carla J. Joseph.