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Police Department Budget and Spending Out of Sync, Senators Contend

June 27, 2007 — Little insight was given Wednesday into the breakdown of the V.I. Police Department's fiscal year 2008 budget, as senators spent several hours butting heads over a recently approved crime bill and questioning the department's inability to fill longstanding vacancies.
Armed with an arsenal of support staff and other top VIPD representatives, Police Commissioner James H. McCall said that the proposed $68.6 million overall funding request is "clearly based" on the department's financial needs, including funding for salary increases and infrastructure improvements such as the implementation of a new 911 communication system.
McCall got stopped in his tracks, however, after senators learned that the department still has to fill 235 vacancies, which represents 191 positions carried over from FY 2007, along with 44 new positions. While McCall explained that a majority of the vacant slots could not be funded in FY 2007 because of an increase in the department's overtime costs, senators lamented the fact that funding for 150 new officers was just included in a comprehensive crime bill recently signed into law by Gov. John deJongh Jr.
"You don't need the new personnel — we've funded the 150 right here," said Sen. Neville James, who put the dollar value of VIPD's vacant classified positions at approximately $6 million.
Setting the tone for upcoming budget hearings, scheduled to run until the end of August, Finance Committee chairman Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said he would look to cut out vacancies that have recurred in the budgets of departments and agencies over the past few years.
"Here's how I think about it: If you don't fill the positions, it means you're not going to get the money," he said. "And you're not going to fill all these positions in FY 2008."
Senators also disputed another section of the crime bill that increases the VIPD's FY 2007 budget appropriation by some $9 million. At previous Senate hearings, Assistant VIPD Commissioner Novelle Francis has explained that the additional funds would help cover the department's expenses over the next three months, since a large chunk of VIPD's FY 2007 personnel budget has been "eaten up" by increased overtime costs.
A chronic manpower shortage has forced the department to spend an estimated $4.3 million in overtime for FY 2007, said VIPD Chief Executive Officer Sandra Webster. While the figure has decreased from previous years, senators argued that the $9 million included in the crime bill was specifically intended to repay the department for overtime expenses incurred since last October.
To the surprise of many senators, Watson explained that the funds also cover $1.5 million in new positions and $336,000 in gas expenses, along with the purchase of bullet-proof vests, travel expenses, rent and utilities.
"Well, this is the information we should have been given before we passed that bill, because some of these things we ended up funding more than once," said Sen. Louis P. Hill. A recent supplemental budget bill sent down by deJongh also includes extra funding for government gas coupons, he added.
When asked why the department has had to seek additional money for operating expenses, McCall explained that the VIPD was underfunded in FY 2007.
Documents from the Legislature's Post Audit division highlights a few of VIPD's projected FY 2008 expenses, including nearly $39 million for personnel services, $11.1 million in fringe benefits, about $1 million for utilities and $3.4 million for supplies.
Senators also heard budget requests Wednesday from Meridith Nielsen, representing both the Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) and the Drug Enforcement Bureau (DEB), whose budgets are recommended at $624,157 and $1.1 million, respectively. Both the LEPC and DEB budgets are included in the Police Department's overall $68.6 million funding recommendation.
Present during Wednesday's hearing were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Hill, James and Nelson.
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June 27, 2007 -- Little insight was given Wednesday into the breakdown of the V.I. Police Department's fiscal year 2008 budget, as senators spent several hours butting heads over a recently approved crime bill and questioning the department's inability to fill longstanding vacancies.
Armed with an arsenal of support staff and other top VIPD representatives, Police Commissioner James H. McCall said that the proposed $68.6 million overall funding request is "clearly based" on the department's financial needs, including funding for salary increases and infrastructure improvements such as the implementation of a new 911 communication system.
McCall got stopped in his tracks, however, after senators learned that the department still has to fill 235 vacancies, which represents 191 positions carried over from FY 2007, along with 44 new positions. While McCall explained that a majority of the vacant slots could not be funded in FY 2007 because of an increase in the department's overtime costs, senators lamented the fact that funding for 150 new officers was just included in a comprehensive crime bill recently signed into law by Gov. John deJongh Jr.
"You don't need the new personnel -- we've funded the 150 right here," said Sen. Neville James, who put the dollar value of VIPD's vacant classified positions at approximately $6 million.
Setting the tone for upcoming budget hearings, scheduled to run until the end of August, Finance Committee chairman Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson said he would look to cut out vacancies that have recurred in the budgets of departments and agencies over the past few years.
"Here's how I think about it: If you don't fill the positions, it means you're not going to get the money," he said. "And you're not going to fill all these positions in FY 2008."
Senators also disputed another section of the crime bill that increases the VIPD's FY 2007 budget appropriation by some $9 million. At previous Senate hearings, Assistant VIPD Commissioner Novelle Francis has explained that the additional funds would help cover the department's expenses over the next three months, since a large chunk of VIPD's FY 2007 personnel budget has been "eaten up" by increased overtime costs.
A chronic manpower shortage has forced the department to spend an estimated $4.3 million in overtime for FY 2007, said VIPD Chief Executive Officer Sandra Webster. While the figure has decreased from previous years, senators argued that the $9 million included in the crime bill was specifically intended to repay the department for overtime expenses incurred since last October.
To the surprise of many senators, Watson explained that the funds also cover $1.5 million in new positions and $336,000 in gas expenses, along with the purchase of bullet-proof vests, travel expenses, rent and utilities.
"Well, this is the information we should have been given before we passed that bill, because some of these things we ended up funding more than once," said Sen. Louis P. Hill. A recent supplemental budget bill sent down by deJongh also includes extra funding for government gas coupons, he added.
When asked why the department has had to seek additional money for operating expenses, McCall explained that the VIPD was underfunded in FY 2007.
Documents from the Legislature's Post Audit division highlights a few of VIPD's projected FY 2008 expenses, including nearly $39 million for personnel services, $11.1 million in fringe benefits, about $1 million for utilities and $3.4 million for supplies.
Senators also heard budget requests Wednesday from Meridith Nielsen, representing both the Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) and the Drug Enforcement Bureau (DEB), whose budgets are recommended at $624,157 and $1.1 million, respectively. Both the LEPC and DEB budgets are included in the Police Department's overall $68.6 million funding recommendation.
Present during Wednesday's hearing were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figueroa-Serville, Hill, James and Nelson.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.