July 6, 2004 – The V.I. Carnival Committee failed to appear for the scheduled hearing on its fiscal year 2005 budget on Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee.
The Carnival Committee has been under fire from Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, the Finance Committee chair, for refusing to submit its financial documents to the Senate panel.
"I'm not surprised that the V.I. Carnival Committee did not show up," Donastorg said.
On June 16, he had invited the committee in writing to present its budget request and an overview of its operations. On June 18, Kenneth Blake, Carnival Committee chair, wrote back telling Donastorg that Carnival officials would not appear at the hearing.
"I find it unbelievable that after several years of being furnished information on our committee's corporate status, you still cannot comprehend that the Virgin Islands Carnival Committee Inc. is a private non-profit corporation and not a government department, nor agency, nor commission, nor instrumentality, nor bureau," Blake said in his letter.
Blake further said that the Carnival Committee had made it "abundantly clear" at a June 4 Finance Committee hearing that "we have no intentions of acquiescing to your demands for documents or information which we deem to be non-governmental." (See "Carnival Committee Says No to Senate Audit".)
The fact that the Legislature makes an appropriation to the Carnival Committee does not "give you the authority to call us into a budget hearing," Blake further stated.
Donastorg posed the question on Tuesday of how the Carnival Committee could be defiant to the entity that supports it.
"I don't think their records are in order," he said. "If you're not doing anything wrong, you shouldn't have anything to worry about."
St. John Festival Committee
The Finance Committee took testimony from Leona Smith, president of the St. John Festival and Cultural Organization, on Tuesday.
Smith told the senators that the proposed budget for her group, which produces the annual July 4th Celebration events, reflects revenues and expenditures totaling $163,000. She asked for an appropriation of $200,000 for FY 2005, saying the money would help in the purchase of a stage for Carnival Village, office space and equipment, transportation and a 40-foot container for storage.
"We are fully conscious of the limited resources of the government in these tight financial times," Smith said. "The Fourth of July and Labor Day celebrations definitely stimulate economic activity with the St. John community — for example, hotels, condos, car rentals, restaurants and other businesses receiving an economic boost during the off season in our tourist-based economy. These activities provide an infusion of dollars needed to fuel the economic infrastructure of St. John."
For FY 2004, Smith said, her committee so far has received $175,000 of its $250,000 appropriation.
Donastorg asked Smith whether the committee had been affected by not receiving all of the money appropriated for this fiscal year. The 2004 July 4th Celebration concluded on Monday.
"We definitely need the money in a timely manner," Smith said. "Most of us had to use our personal credit cards" [for this year's expenses].
Donastorg said this should not be and vowed to see about getting the committee its funds in a timely manner.
In response to questions from Donastorg, Smith said the St. John Festival Committee has federal 501 (c)(3) status as a not-for-profit organization. "We have no problem submitting to an audit, because we receive our major allotment from the government," she also said.
Donastorg said the V.I. Carnival Committee, in contrast, has not received the 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt status granted to qualifying not-for-profit organizations by the federal Internal Revenue Service.
Committee members attending the afternoon hearing were Sens. Donastorg, Louis Hill and Celestino A. White Sr.
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