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Senators Tout Expanded Budget, New Omnibus Bill

By the time they called it quits after three days of full session, senators had added about another $400,000 in new General Fund appropriations to the proposed $831 million fiscal year 2011 budget and passed an omnibus bill that put $10 million more in other special funds toward what they said was a host of community projects and other "critical needs."
As promised, the last-minute omnibus bill appeared on the floor late Wednesday afternoon, but took less than a few hours to pass — even after amendments were tacked on. Senators said the bill contained some sweeping policy changes, supplemented shortfalls in the budget with money appropriated from areas other than the General Fund, and as usual, covered a host of pet projects that many senators elaborated on as they went through their final rounds of discussion.
After the session, Senate Majority Leader Neville James said that approximately $10.5 million in special funds were appropriated in the omnibus, along with $2 million from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund.
Interestingly, the pet projects this year were for items such as road repairs, creating what was described by Sen. Craig W. Barshinger as a "Central Park" for St. John, paying some of the government’s outstanding vendor obligations, expanding potable water lines in Estate Anna’s Retreat/Hidden Valley on St. Thomas and constructing new football fields at both Charlotte Amalie High School and St. Croix Educational Complex.
An appropriation recently made to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority to reclaim the lands on which the Warren E. Brown housing community once sat was also reduced by $700,000 so that $250,000 could be used by Human Services — through Clear Blue Sky Inc. — to set up a facility for the homeless and mentally ill on St. Thomas, while the remainder would be put toward the CAHS football field.
Meanwhile, on the policy side, senators looked at everything from requiring Education officials to convene every August to give a "State of Education Address" to declaring the last Saturday of every September as "the V.I. and American Kennel Club Responsible Dog Ownership Day."
Another section from Sen. Sammuel Sanes allows the Government Employees’ Retirement System to invest 10 percent of its portfolio into purchasing more than 100 acres of land on St. Croix that can be used for homeownership units.
The freshman senator also left his mark in the FY 2011 executive budget, which includes a $112.5 million miscellaneous section where the bulk of the money is put toward community groups, non-profits and other social causes. Sanes said Wednesday that he was able to include $200,000 to begin building a state-of-the-art training facility for first responders, such as firefighters, which has already generated interest from neighboring Caribbean islands.
He said a private entity within the territory has already committed to matching the appropriation so the project can start as soon as possible.
Though the FY 2011 executive budget bill also contains the yearly allotments for the central government departments and agencies, Senate President Louis P. Hill said the kind of appropriations laid out in the miscellaneous section in fact covers the entire community, with funds earmarked for everything from after-school programs, such as Graffiti Street ($22,500), to vocational training initiatives like My Brother’s Workshop, which is set to receive $50,000.
An amendment from Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone also pulls a little more than $200,000 from the General Fund for the V.I. Gemological Institute, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School’s Student Council, the Baseball Explorers clubs, construction of a Police substation and a variety of different majorette groups.
Meanwhile, the total FY 2011 General Fund budget for central department and agencies adds up to about $591 million.
Senators also passed budget bills Wednesday that appropriated from the General Fund: $19.8 million for the Legislature for FY 2011; $6.5 million for the V.I. Supreme Court; $28.8 million for the V.I. Superior Court; $286,439 to the V.I. Judicial Council; and nearly $3.7 million to the Office of the Public Defender.
The General Fund budget total also includes separate appropriations for the University of the Virgin Islands, Waste Management Authority, WTJX Channel 12 and the Elections System. All FY 2011 budget bills — the majority of which were passed Tuesday — will now be sent to the governor for a final approval.
The only senator not present for any part of Wednesday’s session was Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg.

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By the time they called it quits after three days of full session, senators had added about another $400,000 in new General Fund appropriations to the proposed $831 million fiscal year 2011 budget and passed an omnibus bill that put $10 million more in other special funds toward what they said was a host of community projects and other "critical needs."
As promised, the last-minute omnibus bill appeared on the floor late Wednesday afternoon, but took less than a few hours to pass -- even after amendments were tacked on. Senators said the bill contained some sweeping policy changes, supplemented shortfalls in the budget with money appropriated from areas other than the General Fund, and as usual, covered a host of pet projects that many senators elaborated on as they went through their final rounds of discussion.
After the session, Senate Majority Leader Neville James said that approximately $10.5 million in special funds were appropriated in the omnibus, along with $2 million from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund.
Interestingly, the pet projects this year were for items such as road repairs, creating what was described by Sen. Craig W. Barshinger as a "Central Park" for St. John, paying some of the government's outstanding vendor obligations, expanding potable water lines in Estate Anna's Retreat/Hidden Valley on St. Thomas and constructing new football fields at both Charlotte Amalie High School and St. Croix Educational Complex.
An appropriation recently made to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority to reclaim the lands on which the Warren E. Brown housing community once sat was also reduced by $700,000 so that $250,000 could be used by Human Services -- through Clear Blue Sky Inc. -- to set up a facility for the homeless and mentally ill on St. Thomas, while the remainder would be put toward the CAHS football field.
Meanwhile, on the policy side, senators looked at everything from requiring Education officials to convene every August to give a "State of Education Address" to declaring the last Saturday of every September as "the V.I. and American Kennel Club Responsible Dog Ownership Day."
Another section from Sen. Sammuel Sanes allows the Government Employees' Retirement System to invest 10 percent of its portfolio into purchasing more than 100 acres of land on St. Croix that can be used for homeownership units.
The freshman senator also left his mark in the FY 2011 executive budget, which includes a $112.5 million miscellaneous section where the bulk of the money is put toward community groups, non-profits and other social causes. Sanes said Wednesday that he was able to include $200,000 to begin building a state-of-the-art training facility for first responders, such as firefighters, which has already generated interest from neighboring Caribbean islands.
He said a private entity within the territory has already committed to matching the appropriation so the project can start as soon as possible.
Though the FY 2011 executive budget bill also contains the yearly allotments for the central government departments and agencies, Senate President Louis P. Hill said the kind of appropriations laid out in the miscellaneous section in fact covers the entire community, with funds earmarked for everything from after-school programs, such as Graffiti Street ($22,500), to vocational training initiatives like My Brother's Workshop, which is set to receive $50,000.
An amendment from Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone also pulls a little more than $200,000 from the General Fund for the V.I. Gemological Institute, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School's Student Council, the Baseball Explorers clubs, construction of a Police substation and a variety of different majorette groups.
Meanwhile, the total FY 2011 General Fund budget for central department and agencies adds up to about $591 million.
Senators also passed budget bills Wednesday that appropriated from the General Fund: $19.8 million for the Legislature for FY 2011; $6.5 million for the V.I. Supreme Court; $28.8 million for the V.I. Superior Court; $286,439 to the V.I. Judicial Council; and nearly $3.7 million to the Office of the Public Defender.
The General Fund budget total also includes separate appropriations for the University of the Virgin Islands, Waste Management Authority, WTJX Channel 12 and the Elections System. All FY 2011 budget bills -- the majority of which were passed Tuesday -- will now be sent to the governor for a final approval.
The only senator not present for any part of Wednesday's session was Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg.