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Charlotte Amalie
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Drug Enforcement Bureau Without a Budget

June 25, 2008 — Since the Legislature has not yet acted on a bill to disband the Drug Enforcement Bureau (DEB) — formerly known as the Narcotics Strike Force — the agency currently has no money budgeted for fiscal year 2009, DEB officials said Wednesday.
The testimony came during the second round of budget hearings. This year the bureau had a budget of about $1.1 million to cover the salaries of nine agents and other operating expenses, according to Meridith Nielsen, drug policy advisor to the governor. However, the salaries are also not included in the FY 2009 budget for the V.I. Police Department, which could eventually host the bureau, he said.
"If I were an agent I would be a little apprehensive about this," Nielsen told senators Wednesday.
When asked whether the VIPD is ready to integrate the agents into its force, acting Police Commissioner Novelle Francis said the department is "prepared to move forward with any decision that's made" on whether to keep the agency as it is. While senators urged police officials to set aside the controversy associated with the Drug Enforcement Bureau and work collaboratively with the agency, some also said that $1.2 million might be a bit much for an agency that has "only" netted 13 grams of cocaine over the past eight months.
"You need to discuss how you could be more efficient than this," said Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Finance Committee chairman.
Money woes were not at the forefront of discussion when VIPD top brass defended their FY 2009 $62.1 million General Fund budget during the second half of Wednesday's meeting. Despite some big-ticket items on its expenses list, the department should have enough money to make it through the next year, Francis said. That includes $850,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund and about $2.1 million in federal funds, for an overall budget of about $69 million.
The VIPD's General Fund budget, which represents an approximately 8.5-percent increase over this year's appropriation, includes $38.6 million for personnel services, $13 million for fringe benefits, $3.5 million for supplies, $5.2 million for other services and charges (a category that could include everything from travel expenses to professional-services contracts), $1.7 million for utilities and $730,625 for capital outlay.
Unexpected expenses, deferred procurements and new collective-bargaining agreements are a just few of the challenges the department faces from fiscal year to fiscal year, Francis said. However, the FY 2009 budget does take into account needs such as repairs and maintenance for headquarters on St. Thomas and St. John, the replacement of bulletproof vests for officers, wage increases from recently negotiated collective-bargaining agreements, and salaries for employees needed for the creation of a local forensics center.
A $2 million jump in the fringe-benefits category can be attributed to a corresponding jump in employee health-care premiums and a three-percent increase in employer contributions to the Government Employees' Retirement System, Francis said. Meanwhile, a $500,000 increase in the category of other services charges will go toward tuition reimbursements for officers and medical expenses, such as physicals and psychological examinations, according to the department's budget experts. While senators suggested that the VIPD save money by cutting down on its vacancies, officials explained that more than 100 unfilled positions have not been funded in the FY 2009 budget, which will force the department to cut down on its overtime expenses, Francis said.
Also discussed during Wednesday's meeting were efforts to increase manpower, resolve pending litigation and negotiations with VIPD unions, and promote officers within the department.
Also included in VIPD's budget is $793,274 from the General Fund and about $2.7 million in federal funds for the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, also headed by Nielsen. Though he did not make a request for additional funds, Nielsen explained that more money should go into the agency's prevention programs, which target students in at-risk neighborhoods around the territory.
Present during Wednesday's meeting were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Nelson, Ronald E. Russell and James A. Weber III.
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June 25, 2008 -- Since the Legislature has not yet acted on a bill to disband the Drug Enforcement Bureau (DEB) -- formerly known as the Narcotics Strike Force -- the agency currently has no money budgeted for fiscal year 2009, DEB officials said Wednesday.
The testimony came during the second round of budget hearings. This year the bureau had a budget of about $1.1 million to cover the salaries of nine agents and other operating expenses, according to Meridith Nielsen, drug policy advisor to the governor. However, the salaries are also not included in the FY 2009 budget for the V.I. Police Department, which could eventually host the bureau, he said.
"If I were an agent I would be a little apprehensive about this," Nielsen told senators Wednesday.
When asked whether the VIPD is ready to integrate the agents into its force, acting Police Commissioner Novelle Francis said the department is "prepared to move forward with any decision that's made" on whether to keep the agency as it is. While senators urged police officials to set aside the controversy associated with the Drug Enforcement Bureau and work collaboratively with the agency, some also said that $1.2 million might be a bit much for an agency that has "only" netted 13 grams of cocaine over the past eight months.
"You need to discuss how you could be more efficient than this," said Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Finance Committee chairman.
Money woes were not at the forefront of discussion when VIPD top brass defended their FY 2009 $62.1 million General Fund budget during the second half of Wednesday's meeting. Despite some big-ticket items on its expenses list, the department should have enough money to make it through the next year, Francis said. That includes $850,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund and about $2.1 million in federal funds, for an overall budget of about $69 million.
The VIPD's General Fund budget, which represents an approximately 8.5-percent increase over this year's appropriation, includes $38.6 million for personnel services, $13 million for fringe benefits, $3.5 million for supplies, $5.2 million for other services and charges (a category that could include everything from travel expenses to professional-services contracts), $1.7 million for utilities and $730,625 for capital outlay.
Unexpected expenses, deferred procurements and new collective-bargaining agreements are a just few of the challenges the department faces from fiscal year to fiscal year, Francis said. However, the FY 2009 budget does take into account needs such as repairs and maintenance for headquarters on St. Thomas and St. John, the replacement of bulletproof vests for officers, wage increases from recently negotiated collective-bargaining agreements, and salaries for employees needed for the creation of a local forensics center.
A $2 million jump in the fringe-benefits category can be attributed to a corresponding jump in employee health-care premiums and a three-percent increase in employer contributions to the Government Employees' Retirement System, Francis said. Meanwhile, a $500,000 increase in the category of other services charges will go toward tuition reimbursements for officers and medical expenses, such as physicals and psychological examinations, according to the department's budget experts. While senators suggested that the VIPD save money by cutting down on its vacancies, officials explained that more than 100 unfilled positions have not been funded in the FY 2009 budget, which will force the department to cut down on its overtime expenses, Francis said.
Also discussed during Wednesday's meeting were efforts to increase manpower, resolve pending litigation and negotiations with VIPD unions, and promote officers within the department.
Also included in VIPD's budget is $793,274 from the General Fund and about $2.7 million in federal funds for the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, also headed by Nielsen. Though he did not make a request for additional funds, Nielsen explained that more money should go into the agency's prevention programs, which target students in at-risk neighborhoods around the territory.
Present during Wednesday's meeting were Sens. Liston Davis, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Nelson, Ronald E. Russell and James A. Weber III.
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.