ST. THOMAS – Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt A. Vialet convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Friday to receive testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2021 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States. Invited testifiers are officials from the Virgin Islands Lottery (VIL), Virgin Islands Energy Office (VIEO), and Magens Bay Authority. Separately, lawmakers voted to send to Legislative Session: Bill No. 33-0314- An Act amending the time-period for the amnesty established in Act No. 8271.
The Virgin Islands Lottery FY 2021 operating income is $5,876,296. This is an increase in comparison to FY 2020 totaling $5,556,891. Furthermore, VIL utilizes $2,442,232 for annual salaries and two vacancies: according to VIL Executive Director Raymond Williams. Defending the proposed budget, Williams noted that amid the COVID-19 Pandemic one of the major goals of VIL is to transition from the traditional workplace to a virtual setting. VIL is in preparation to launch the Net Motion Virtual Private Network to allow remote access to employees. Essential staffers who cannot connect will be assigned the necessary hardware/equipment to participate. Separately, Shayla Procto, Chief Financial Officer for VIL indicated that the VIL Commission approved the FY 2021 operating budget of $20,289,207. This is inclusive of $8,000 for Traditional Game, $12,268,707 for Compensation of Contractors, and $20,500 for other income.
Regarding the distribution of badges to VIL employees, Sen. Vialet said, “You can’t just have a badge for the sake of it. There need to be requirements implemented before someone receiving a badge.” In response, Williams stated that badges and radios are distributed to enforcement officers and authorized personnel. Sen. Dwayne DeGraff inquired about the salaries for enforcement officers totaling $45,000 a year who worked with VIL for over ten years without an increase. Verita Carmichael Human Resources Director for VIL stated that salaries are previously set for the enforcement officer position before the VIL hiring process.
The Virgin Islands Energy Office Director Kyle Fleming noted that the proposed FY 2021 budget totals $1,181,256. In comparison to the FY 2020 budget appropriation of $1,314,902; this is a reduction of $133,646. The FY 2021 breakdown is as follows: $647,849 for personnel services, $304,634 for fringe benefits, $24,000 for supplies, $200,773 for other services, and $4,000 for capital outlay. Furthermore, additional funding is realized by Federal US DOE grants totaling $570,244. Fleming mentioned that one of the major accomplishments was the unveiling of the Net Metering Program in June 2020. Moving forward, VIEO will tap into more grants that promote energy conservation in the Territory.
Magens Bay Authority General Manager Hubert Brumant stated that the FY 2021 budget request totals $2,058,726. Challenges facing the Authority include invasive plants, increased seaweed on shores, and long lines to use facilities; according to Brumant. Collectively, lawmakers cautioned the Authority to incorporate local cuisine, music, and cultural souvenirs at the beach. “Tourists want the full experience of the Virgin Islands,” said Sen. Marvin Blyden.