Gov. John deJongh Jr. convened his Cabinet at Government House on St. Thomas on Monday to update the commissioners and agency heads on the territory’s fiscal health.
Thursday’s press statement said a continued hiring freeze in the executive branch and an overhaul of the contracting process between the Justice and Property & Procurement departments were also discussed.
DeJongh reiterated that a hiring freeze across the Executive Branch will continue, given the troubled financial times that will continue through the new fiscal year.
“With the exception of positions that are federally funded and critical hires in agencies such as Health, Police and Education, the financial times we are in require us to continue to hold the line on new hires,” he said.
Office of Management and Budget Director Debra Gottlieb’s presentation on the state of the government’s financial health demonstrated that a “difficult fiscal year lies ahead.” Fiscal Year 2014 opens Oct. 1. The Department of the Interior recently announced an approximately 25percent reduction, or $71 million, in the advance for the rum cover-over due to uncertainty over federal tax policy.
Gottlieb encouraged agency heads to remain current on their obligations to the Water and Power Authority for electrical and water services. She also urged her colleagues to make good on whatever missing employer contributions exist at the retirement system to allow those retirees who have ended their government career to begin capitalizing on their accrued benefits.
“This will allow the retirees to draw down their pensions while the administration works with the GERS board to finalize a proposed agreement to address longstanding employer contributions,” she said.
Director of Personnel Kenneth Hermon told the assemblage that the number of people employed by the V.I. government has declined by more than 2,100 employees since the 2007-08 fiscal year as a result of the hiring freeze.
“We continue to shrink the number of employees through attrition and retirement and this is something we have seen since 2007-2008,” he said.
Hermon reiterated the governor’s position on General Fund hiring and addressed some overall goals and objectives for human resources managers in the government and some of the thresholds required by participants in the group health insurance program.
Bureau of Information Technology Director Reuben Molloy provided an overview of various initiatives being implemented to maximize the technology available in the government workplace.
Raymond Williams and Chris George, both of the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, presented an update on the ongoing street-naming project. Pilot projects to establish street numbering are underway on all three islands and residents will soon begin to see new road signage as part of the effort.
Attorney General Vincent Frazer told the Cabinet that he and Department of Property & Procurement Commissioner Lynn A. Millin Maduro have been working to revise the contract process. The process and the extended period of time required to move a contractual arrangement through the government have been a source of dissatisfaction over the years, he said.
“The process is a bit lengthy but our laws are what they are. We are hoping by our efforts, Commissioner Millin Maduro and I, to get to a point where we can recommend some streamlining of the process without compromising the effort to ensure that the rights of the government are protected in each case,” Frazer said.
Cabinet members also signed statements of support for the National Guard and Reserve, further demonstrating the administration’s continued support for our servicemen and women. The governor signed his statement of support last March.