ST. THOMAS- Members of the 35th Legislature of the Virgin IslandsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance, led by Senator Donna A. Frett-Gregory, convened a meeting at the Frits E. Lawaetz Conference Room. Senators were informed of the proposed Fiscal Year 2024 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands. Lawmakers received testimony from officials of the Virgin Islands Energy Office (VIEO), the Virgin Islands Department of Health (DOH), and the Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure (VIBNL).
The GovernorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recommended FY 2024 budget request for the Virgin Islands Energy Office totals $1,568,122 for the General Fund appropriation, according to Kyle Fleming, Director of the Virgin Islands Energy Office. Compared to the FY 2023 budget totaling $1,559,308, this is an increase of $8,814. The breakdown is as follows: $382,633 for fringe benefits, $307,982 for other services, $14,000 for utility services, $22,100 for supplies, and $841,407 for personnel. In response to Senator Dwayne DeGraffÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inquiry regarding employee raises Fleming noted that some of the VIEOÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s staff received a salary increase for FY 2023. Crediting the increase in Federal Funds to the Biden Administration Inflation Reduction Act, Fleming mentioned that VIEO was allocated $5,580,780 for FY 2024, representing growth in energy cost savings measures. VIEOÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s key priority for FY 2024 is to complete the funding acquisition and funding mobilization of the Federal Grants.
Justa Encarnacion, Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Health, delivered testimony. The recommended FY 2024 budget totals $26,818,867 for the General Fund. Additional monies include $26,142,771 for reoccurring Federal Funds or thirty-four grants, $1,976,755 for the Health Revolving Fund, and $3,127,329 for Non-Appropriated Funds. The total sum for all funds is $58,065,722. The General Fund breakdown is as follows: $11,762,451 for personnel services; $5,421,591 for fringe benefits; $1,612,217 for supplies; $7,959,608 for other services; and $63,000 for public utilities. In terms of revenue collections, an estimated $1,981,365 is projected for the remainder of FY 2023. To date, a total of $1,618,496 has been raised. Regarding personnel, as of July 2023, DOH had recruited and hired 33 employees, had 11 separations, and had 11 promotions. DOH has a total of 223.5 classified employees, 133 exempt positions, and 14 temporary jobs.
Carmen Vanterpool-Romney, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Board of Nurse Licensure, noted that the recommended General Fund FY 2024 budget is $825,000. Compared to FY 2023, the budget is the same. Defending the budget, Vanterpool-Romney stated that the funds are sufficient for personnel and operations. The FY 2024 budget breakdown is as follows: $476,200 for salaries, $237,203 for fringe benefits, $11,597 for supplies, and $100,000 for other services and charges As of May 2023, a total of $52,109 had been collected from renewals of Advanced Practical Registered Nurses and Registered Nurses. VIBNL’s accomplishments include launching the nurse portal, the Optimal Regulatory Board System, maintaining the NURSYS database, and completing 108 certified nursing assistants and 56 licensed practical nurses.
Senators present at the committee hearing included Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Marise C. James, Diane T. Capehart, Milton E. Potter, Samuel CarriÃƒÂ³n, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Javan E. James, Sr., Ray Fonseca, and Carla J. Joseph. ###