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Wednesday, June 29, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesProposed Budget Cuts Will Hamper V.I. Agencies, Officials Say

Proposed Budget Cuts Will Hamper V.I. Agencies, Officials Say

Through a few short rounds of questioning Wednesday, officials from the V.I. Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA), Territorial Public Defender’s Office and St. John Festival Committee told senators that budget cuts proposed for fiscal year 2011 may force a slash in the agencies’ services, or in the worst case scenario, employees.
During the continuation of summer budget hearings on St. Thomas, VIHFA Executive Director Clifford Graham told senators that the government’s nearly $2.1 million General Fund recommendation for the upcoming fiscal year is 10 percent less than the authority’s FY 2010 appropriation.
VIHFA also won’t be receiving its cut of Stamp Tax collections generally remitted each year, which Graham said would affect the agency’s ability to manage its operations, which expanded over the last couple of years as programs were shifted over from Housing, Parks and Recreation.
Graham said that 12 percent of whatever the authority receives in Stamp Tax money is used for administrative expenses.
"Because of fiscal constraints, the 2011 budget submittal recommends the deferral of the Stamp Tax funding to the General Fund for 2011 and 2012," he explained. "This, the authority knows, may be beneficial to keeping the government solvent, but unfortunately, it will translate to several of our objectives for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years being stalled and few moderate-income clients achieving homeownership."
The agency’s budget fuels the territory’s affordable housing program, along with covering costs that will help VIHFA manage the Homestead, Home Loan, Veteran Land and Loan, Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Shelter programs transferred in 2008 from Housing, Parks and Recreation. Along with what it gets from the General Fund, VIHFA also uses federal funding programs to subsidize its initiatives.
However, Graham said Wednesday the federal program money is limited and obligated quickly. To make up for the proposed General Fund cut, Graham said the authority’s options include: rationing water at emergency housing units transferred over from Housing, Parks to reduce high water bills, which Graham said has already added up to about $650,000 this year; repairing only "life-threatening items" at the emergency housing units; limiting the amount of homeownership opportunities available to local residents; or laying off employees.
Senators’ main concern Wednesday was the authority’s inability to develop a true emergency housing program, which is now more important than ever, since the territory is currently in the midst of hurricane season. In the past, the program’s existing units have either fallen into an extreme state of disrepair, or have been used for years as rentals, forcing the waiting list for the units to continue to grow.
Graham said he understood the concerns, but said the program is not currently funded.
Similar complaints were aired by representatives from the Territorial Public Defender’s Office, who begged senators to set aside the government’s recommended $3.6 million General Fund budget appropriation — a nearly $273,000 cut over the FY 2010 appropriation — and take up their request for nearly $5 million.
Among other things, the extra money will help maintain salaries and allow the office to bring on at least one new attorney per district to take on cases in the V.I. Superior Court’s new Magistrate Division, said Debra Smith-Watlington, chief territorial public defender.
"With the increase in criminal cases, the implementation of the Magistrate Divisions and an increasing number of cases proceeding to trial, we are constantly shuffling attorneys from courtroom to courtroom to ensure adequate representation," she added.
The office’s proposed $4.98 million budget includes: $2.8 million for personnel services (a $390,000 jump from the FY 2010 level) and approximately $1 million for associated fringe benefits; $205,000 for capital outlays, including a new telephone system; $161,000 for supplies; $613,000 for other services and charges; and $115,000 for utilities.
Senators and office representatives also discussed the need to curb the territory’s rising juvenile crime levels — including plans to bring some sort of boot camp or remediation program down to the U.S. Virgin Islands — along with the need for another Youth Rehabilitation Center to supplement the one on St. Croix.
Wrapping up the day’s hearings, senators also heard from the St. John Festival Committee, represented by the island’s administrator Leona Smith, who also said the government’s proposed $175,000 General Fund budget was not enough to get the organization through FY 2011.
The organization’s FY 2010 allotment was reduced to $250,000, while projected expenses at this point add up to about $305,000. Meanwhile, projected expenses for FY 2011 are about $490,000, but the organization is asking for $400,000 to cover the cost of two large tents, artificial grass and storage containers for the Winston Wells Ball Field, Smith said.
According to an analysis by the Legislature’s Post Audit Division, the committee is also slated to receive $75,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund, bringing its total budget up to $250,000.
Present during Wednesday’s hearings were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Sammuel Sanes and Patrick Simeon Sprauve.

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Through a few short rounds of questioning Wednesday, officials from the V.I. Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA), Territorial Public Defender's Office and St. John Festival Committee told senators that budget cuts proposed for fiscal year 2011 may force a slash in the agencies' services, or in the worst case scenario, employees.
During the continuation of summer budget hearings on St. Thomas, VIHFA Executive Director Clifford Graham told senators that the government's nearly $2.1 million General Fund recommendation for the upcoming fiscal year is 10 percent less than the authority's FY 2010 appropriation.
VIHFA also won't be receiving its cut of Stamp Tax collections generally remitted each year, which Graham said would affect the agency's ability to manage its operations, which expanded over the last couple of years as programs were shifted over from Housing, Parks and Recreation.
Graham said that 12 percent of whatever the authority receives in Stamp Tax money is used for administrative expenses.
"Because of fiscal constraints, the 2011 budget submittal recommends the deferral of the Stamp Tax funding to the General Fund for 2011 and 2012," he explained. "This, the authority knows, may be beneficial to keeping the government solvent, but unfortunately, it will translate to several of our objectives for the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years being stalled and few moderate-income clients achieving homeownership."
The agency's budget fuels the territory's affordable housing program, along with covering costs that will help VIHFA manage the Homestead, Home Loan, Veteran Land and Loan, Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Shelter programs transferred in 2008 from Housing, Parks and Recreation. Along with what it gets from the General Fund, VIHFA also uses federal funding programs to subsidize its initiatives.
However, Graham said Wednesday the federal program money is limited and obligated quickly. To make up for the proposed General Fund cut, Graham said the authority's options include: rationing water at emergency housing units transferred over from Housing, Parks to reduce high water bills, which Graham said has already added up to about $650,000 this year; repairing only "life-threatening items" at the emergency housing units; limiting the amount of homeownership opportunities available to local residents; or laying off employees.
Senators' main concern Wednesday was the authority's inability to develop a true emergency housing program, which is now more important than ever, since the territory is currently in the midst of hurricane season. In the past, the program's existing units have either fallen into an extreme state of disrepair, or have been used for years as rentals, forcing the waiting list for the units to continue to grow.
Graham said he understood the concerns, but said the program is not currently funded.
Similar complaints were aired by representatives from the Territorial Public Defender's Office, who begged senators to set aside the government's recommended $3.6 million General Fund budget appropriation -- a nearly $273,000 cut over the FY 2010 appropriation -- and take up their request for nearly $5 million.
Among other things, the extra money will help maintain salaries and allow the office to bring on at least one new attorney per district to take on cases in the V.I. Superior Court's new Magistrate Division, said Debra Smith-Watlington, chief territorial public defender.
"With the increase in criminal cases, the implementation of the Magistrate Divisions and an increasing number of cases proceeding to trial, we are constantly shuffling attorneys from courtroom to courtroom to ensure adequate representation," she added.
The office's proposed $4.98 million budget includes: $2.8 million for personnel services (a $390,000 jump from the FY 2010 level) and approximately $1 million for associated fringe benefits; $205,000 for capital outlays, including a new telephone system; $161,000 for supplies; $613,000 for other services and charges; and $115,000 for utilities.
Senators and office representatives also discussed the need to curb the territory's rising juvenile crime levels -- including plans to bring some sort of boot camp or remediation program down to the U.S. Virgin Islands -- along with the need for another Youth Rehabilitation Center to supplement the one on St. Croix.
Wrapping up the day's hearings, senators also heard from the St. John Festival Committee, represented by the island's administrator Leona Smith, who also said the government's proposed $175,000 General Fund budget was not enough to get the organization through FY 2011.
The organization's FY 2010 allotment was reduced to $250,000, while projected expenses at this point add up to about $305,000. Meanwhile, projected expenses for FY 2011 are about $490,000, but the organization is asking for $400,000 to cover the cost of two large tents, artificial grass and storage containers for the Winston Wells Ball Field, Smith said.
According to an analysis by the Legislature's Post Audit Division, the committee is also slated to receive $75,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund, bringing its total budget up to $250,000.
Present during Wednesday's hearings were Sens. Craig W. Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Terrence "Positive" Nelson, Sammuel Sanes and Patrick Simeon Sprauve.