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HomeNewsArchivesSenators Spend Hours Plowing Through Fund-Transfer Requests

Senators Spend Hours Plowing Through Fund-Transfer Requests

Sept. 17, 2007 — Confusion reigned during Monday's Finance Committee meeting, as senators tried to get to the bottom of an extensive packet of appropriation transfers requested by various government departments and agencies.
At the end of the nearly seven-hour meeting, almost all the requests were approved. Senators cautioned, however, that as the requests move forward through the committee process, they could be pared down and based instead on each agency's most critical needs. The requests could also be incorporated into one larger bill, explained committee chairman Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson. He added that senators might not be as "generous" about approving the transfers in the future.
"The message we're trying to send to the departments and agencies is fill your vacancies," Nelson said before the meeting wrapped up.
Earlier in the meeting, senators also approved a $31.37 million General Fund budget for the V.I. Supreme Court, Superior Court, Judicial Council and Office of the Public Defender to cover operating expenses during fiscal year 2008.
A common occurrence at the end of each fiscal year, appropriation transfers allow departments and agencies to shift some of their unexpended funds — usually cost savings generated by a large number of vacancies — to cover outstanding obligations and other operating expenses. While this usually includes items such as utility bills or overtime costs, this year's transfer requests also include shifting money to buy new vehicles, office equipment such as computers, and gas coupons.
Since the money has to be spent by the end of the current fiscal year — or, in this case, by the end of the month — senators questioned why the transfer requests continue to come down at the last minute.
The simple answer to the question, according to representatives from the Office of Management and Budget, is that the government has to wait and see whether it will generate enough revenues to cover its expenses — including appropriations to departments and agencies — during a given fiscal year. OMB can only make a full assessment of the government's financial picture, and what money is available, once collections figures are added up, explained OMB Deputy Director Claudette Farrington.
In terms of FY 2007, she said, a lag in revenue collections has prompted a two-percent budget cut for departments and agencies across the board. The decrease has already been implemented, Farrington added, leaving a certain amount of funds available for appropriation transfers.
Senators argued that some of the expenses, such as the purchase of new vehicles, most likely will not be taken care of within the next two weeks. But many also said certain expenses, including unpaid utility bills, could not be left outstanding. However, two appropriation requests from the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) were held in committee, spurred by several concerns raised by minority senators.
Looking over BIT's paperwork, Sen. Neville James pointed out that the agency was transferring about half of its budget for FY 2007. BIT Executive Director John George explained that the money, which would go toward building a comprehensive government network, was line-itemed under the wrong category. James said BIT should have discovered the error earlier and made moves to get it fixed.
Senators also shot down requests from the Division of Personnel and the Office of the Adjutant General.
Appropriation transfers approved during Monday's meeting:
— $99,000 from OMB's personnel services section for the purchase of new furniture, office equipment, computers and vehicles;
— $503,426 from various sections of DPNR's FY 2007 budget to other divisions within the agency;
— $201,263 from the Department of Property and Procurement's FY 2007 budget to cover the cost of a new phone system and supplies associated with hooking up the new Enterprise Resource Planning System;
— $358,891 from the Department of Labor's FY 2007 budget to pay for other operating expenses;
— $181,572 from the Department of Labor's FY 2007 budget to purchase software and licenses needed to operate the Workers' Compensation Claims Program;
— $40,000 from the Division of Personnel's FY 2007 budget to buy furniture and computers for employees in the agency's St. Croix office;
— $1.8 million from the Department of Human Service's FY 2007 budget to cover various outstanding obligations and unfunded mandates;
— $100,000 from the Department of Agriculture's FY 2007 budget to buy extra office supplies;
— $105,380 from the Department of Agriculture's FY 2007 budget to cover utility costs;
— $300,000 from the Bureau of Internal Revenue's FY 2007 budget to cover utility bills, buy a new postage machine for the agency's St. Croix office and cover trade-in costs for 20 of the agency's older vehicles;
— $60,000 from the Law Enforcement Planning Commission's FY 2007 budget to buy two new vehicles;
— $1.4 million from the Department of Justice's FY 2007 budget to cover expert witness costs and fees, outstanding rent, use of the hospital's morgue and personnel services. Testifiers also said that the department has recently had an increase in criminal cases where off-island witnesses are used, and have been prosecuting cases for other government departments and agencies; and
— $1.1 million from the Department of Health's FY 2007 budget to buy supplies and new machinery/equipment.
Present during Monday's meeting were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figuera-Serville, James, Nelson, Ronald E. Russell and James Weber III. Non-committee member Sen. Usie R. Richards was also present.
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Sept. 17, 2007 -- Confusion reigned during Monday's Finance Committee meeting, as senators tried to get to the bottom of an extensive packet of appropriation transfers requested by various government departments and agencies.
At the end of the nearly seven-hour meeting, almost all the requests were approved. Senators cautioned, however, that as the requests move forward through the committee process, they could be pared down and based instead on each agency's most critical needs. The requests could also be incorporated into one larger bill, explained committee chairman Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson. He added that senators might not be as "generous" about approving the transfers in the future.
"The message we're trying to send to the departments and agencies is fill your vacancies," Nelson said before the meeting wrapped up.
Earlier in the meeting, senators also approved a $31.37 million General Fund budget for the V.I. Supreme Court, Superior Court, Judicial Council and Office of the Public Defender to cover operating expenses during fiscal year 2008.
A common occurrence at the end of each fiscal year, appropriation transfers allow departments and agencies to shift some of their unexpended funds -- usually cost savings generated by a large number of vacancies -- to cover outstanding obligations and other operating expenses. While this usually includes items such as utility bills or overtime costs, this year's transfer requests also include shifting money to buy new vehicles, office equipment such as computers, and gas coupons.
Since the money has to be spent by the end of the current fiscal year -- or, in this case, by the end of the month -- senators questioned why the transfer requests continue to come down at the last minute.
The simple answer to the question, according to representatives from the Office of Management and Budget, is that the government has to wait and see whether it will generate enough revenues to cover its expenses -- including appropriations to departments and agencies -- during a given fiscal year. OMB can only make a full assessment of the government's financial picture, and what money is available, once collections figures are added up, explained OMB Deputy Director Claudette Farrington.
In terms of FY 2007, she said, a lag in revenue collections has prompted a two-percent budget cut for departments and agencies across the board. The decrease has already been implemented, Farrington added, leaving a certain amount of funds available for appropriation transfers.
Senators argued that some of the expenses, such as the purchase of new vehicles, most likely will not be taken care of within the next two weeks. But many also said certain expenses, including unpaid utility bills, could not be left outstanding. However, two appropriation requests from the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) were held in committee, spurred by several concerns raised by minority senators.
Looking over BIT's paperwork, Sen. Neville James pointed out that the agency was transferring about half of its budget for FY 2007. BIT Executive Director John George explained that the money, which would go toward building a comprehensive government network, was line-itemed under the wrong category. James said BIT should have discovered the error earlier and made moves to get it fixed.
Senators also shot down requests from the Division of Personnel and the Office of the Adjutant General.
Appropriation transfers approved during Monday's meeting:
-- $99,000 from OMB's personnel services section for the purchase of new furniture, office equipment, computers and vehicles;
-- $503,426 from various sections of DPNR's FY 2007 budget to other divisions within the agency;
-- $201,263 from the Department of Property and Procurement's FY 2007 budget to cover the cost of a new phone system and supplies associated with hooking up the new Enterprise Resource Planning System;
-- $358,891 from the Department of Labor's FY 2007 budget to pay for other operating expenses;
-- $181,572 from the Department of Labor's FY 2007 budget to purchase software and licenses needed to operate the Workers' Compensation Claims Program;
-- $40,000 from the Division of Personnel's FY 2007 budget to buy furniture and computers for employees in the agency's St. Croix office;
-- $1.8 million from the Department of Human Service's FY 2007 budget to cover various outstanding obligations and unfunded mandates;
-- $100,000 from the Department of Agriculture's FY 2007 budget to buy extra office supplies;
-- $105,380 from the Department of Agriculture's FY 2007 budget to cover utility costs;
-- $300,000 from the Bureau of Internal Revenue's FY 2007 budget to cover utility bills, buy a new postage machine for the agency's St. Croix office and cover trade-in costs for 20 of the agency's older vehicles;
-- $60,000 from the Law Enforcement Planning Commission's FY 2007 budget to buy two new vehicles;
-- $1.4 million from the Department of Justice's FY 2007 budget to cover expert witness costs and fees, outstanding rent, use of the hospital's morgue and personnel services. Testifiers also said that the department has recently had an increase in criminal cases where off-island witnesses are used, and have been prosecuting cases for other government departments and agencies; and
-- $1.1 million from the Department of Health's FY 2007 budget to buy supplies and new machinery/equipment.
Present during Monday's meeting were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Juan Figuera-Serville, James, Nelson, Ronald E. Russell and James Weber III. Non-committee member Sen. Usie R. Richards was also present.
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.