A $175 million budget approved for the V.I. Port Authority includes funding for key capital improvement projects at the territory’s air and seaports. The budget, which covers fiscal year 2020, was discussed last week during an executive session at the VIPA board’s last meeting on St. Thomas.
Because VIPA is a semi-autonomous government agency, the budget does not require approval by the Senate. Still, the board did go through the nuts and bolts Friday, saying that the new spending plan is a 47 percent increase over last year, and anticipates:
– Operating expenses of $56.7 million,
– Debt service payments of $4.6 million,
– Property transfers of -$382,000, and
– Capital expenditures of $114 million.
Overall, VIPA’s operating expenses will increase by 27 percent as a result of negotiated salary increases for administrative and unionized support personnel and increased maintenance costs largely attributed to issues related to the airport terminals, along with increases in materials, supplies and utility costs associated with the hurricane-damage restoration of its port facilities.
The biggest category – capital expenditures – factors in the cost of larger infrastructure developments, including:
– Expansion of the Cyril E. King Airport (CEKA) general aviation apron and building a third taxiway bridge,
– Repairs to the CEKA apron at Gate 5,
– Construction of a multi-level, 700-space parking garage and transportation center at CEKA
– Expansion of the domestic waiting area at Henry E. Rohlsen Airport on St. Croix,
– Building a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility in Red Hook on St. Thomas,
– New restrooms at the St. John dock, and
– Major dredging at Crown Bay and in the Charlotte Amalie Harbor.
VIPA has also funded the dredging of the Schooner Bay Channel in Gallows Bay, pending the approval of a permit by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
To support the numbers, the port is projecting an increase in aviation revenues for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 30, with the number of airport visitors expected to jump to 840,000. And, while the number of cruise ship passengers are expected to decrease slightly from 1.8 million to 1.4 million, the port recently increased its pilotage, dockage and wharfage fees by 3 percent.
Funding sources include: $62.7 million from operating fees and charges; $121,000 from renewal and replacement reserves; $6.6 million from passenger facility charges, $300,000 from car rental facility charges; $83.3 million from capital grants; $8.8 million from cash on hand; $500,000 from Public Finance Authority grants; and $7.6 million from debt-funded marine revenue bonds and other revenue sources.