July 7, 2004 The Senate Finance Committee took testimony from the Department of Property and Procurement and the Public Finance Authority during a budget hearing Tuesday.
Marc Biggs, Property and Procurement commissioner, told the committee that his department is requesting $4.2 million from the General Fund for fiscal year 2005. This reflects a 14 percent decrease from 2004, Biggs said.
Biggs also requested money from two other funds $1.6 million from the Business and Commercial Fund and $255,511 from the Indirect Cost Fund bringing his total request to $6.1 million.
Of the $6.1 million, $5.1 million will go to personnel services, $729,000 to mandatory costs such as utilities and rent and the remaining $241,562 will go towards the operation of the department, Biggs told the committee.
"Keeping in mind the numerous and various expenses involved in operating this department, it does not leave much funding to do new and creative things," Biggs said. "My team will not be deterred. Just as the old saying goes 'When one door is closed, another one is opened.' We too shall rise to the challenge and persevere."
Biggs said his department accomplished much in 2004 including the development and implementation of a government-wide Personal Property Inventory Control Management System and the design, build, operation and management of waste water treatment facilities on St. Croix and St. Thomas.
The department has also seen a reduction in the government's vehicle fleet and contractors have been paid in a timelier manner, Biggs said.
In response to questions by Finance Committee Chair Sen. Adlah Donastorg, Biggs said that Property and Procurement generates revenues totaling $75 million annually through property rentals, procurement, processing contracts, printing office and central stores. The department is also proposing to establish a rental/leasing program through its transportation division.
"It is my opinion that should the Department of Property and Procurement be truly viewed as a revenue-generating agency of this government and funded accordingly, we shall be more capable of assisting to reduce the fiscal stress that the government of the Virgin Islands is currently experiencing," Biggs said.
Kenneth Mapp, PFA director of finance and administration, gave an overview of the PFA's budget for fiscal year 2005.
Mapp said the authority's 2005 budget is currently recommended at $3.2 million, the same as 2004.
The PFA's budget is automatically funded from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund and other assets of the authority, Mapp said.
As of September 2003, the total assets of the PFA amounted to $1.152 billion, of which $40 million are capital assets, Mapp said. The authority's total liabilities amount to $1.093 billion, of which $902 million represented outstanding bonds and loans and $190.7 million representing other liabilities. Mapp said the total assets exceeded liabilities by $59 million.
The PFA is currently managing more than $43.9 million of public projects, Mapp said. These projects are:
– Frederiksted economic revitalization at $11 million
– Old Danish Military Hospital, Frederiksted, at $2 million
– Toro Building, St. Croix, at $4.1 million
– Prison Annex, St. Thomas, at $2 million
– Hospital Street facilities, St. Croix, at $5 million
– Kami renovations, St. Croix, at $2.5 million
– Wastewater treatment facilities at $16.5 million
– Herbert Grigg home repairs, St. Croix, at $750,000
– St. Thomas Government House repairs at $500,000.
Sen. Luther Renee asked Mapp how he perceives the state of the St. Croix economy.
"St. Croix is at a crossroads. The potential for investment is strong," Mapp responded. "But St. Croix will not progress with our current attitudes. Until we change our attitudes things are not going to get better."
Mapp said Crucians do not treat each other well, and they need to do that before they can treat someone from the outside right.
Mapp said his salary was $184,000 in response to questioning from committee members.
Committee member in attendance at the hearing were: Donastorg, Louis Hill, Norman Jn Baptiste, Shawn-Michael Malone, Ronald Russell and Luther Renee.
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