80.3 F
Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, March 2, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsSenators Want Midyear Report on Budget, Spending

Senators Want Midyear Report on Budget, Spending

The insurance company has a responsibility to purchase reinsurance. ... It is not supposed to be the responsibility of the government of the Virgin Islands,
Sen. Kurt Vialet during a Senate committee hearing in 2018. (File photo by Barry Leerdam for the V.I. Legislature)

Jenifer O’Neal, director of the Office of Management and Budget, was not happy about it, but the Senate Finance Committee moved a bill requiring her to submit a midyear review of the budget to the Committee.

The bill, along with two others OK’d by the Committee Tuesday, now needs approval by the Senate Rules and Judiciary Committee before it can be adopted by the full Senate.

O’Neal told senators the bill would force her office to duplicate the efforts it already makes, and it would be “time consuming” for her staff. She said her office was always available to answer any questions senators had during the year.

Sen. Kurt Vialet said it was alright to have duplication if it helped the process work better.

Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, who sponsored the bill, said the measure was necessary for the Senate to have “true oversight” of the budget process. She said that during the year departments often use funds the Senate had appropriated for personnel for other expenses.

O’Neal said senators could get all the information they needed during revenue conferences held in March and September of each year.

Acting Finance Commission Kirk Callwood and Acting Budget Director Jenifer O'Neal at Tuesday's Finance Committee hearing. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, V.I. Legislature)
OMB Director Jenifer O’Neal at Tuesday’s Finance Committee hearing. (Photo by Barry Leerdam, V.I. Legislature)

Sen. Alicia Barnes disagreed. She said the conferences usually dealt with projections and analyzing trends. She added that this legislation would allow senators to see the “actuals” of what was actually being spent and where.

All committee members present voted to move the bill forward. They were Sens. Barnes, Frett-Gregory, Vialet, Oakland Benta, Allison DeGazon and Marvin Blyden.

Sen. Janelle Sarauw was absent from the meeting.

The committee members present also gave full support to a bill that would appropriate $500,000 from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund to the V.I. Waste Management Authority for the purchase of surveillance cameras to be installed at selected bin sites.

Sen. Novelle Francis Jr., a non-committee member present at the hearing, said, “I am all for enforcement by technology.” He added that it was his expectation the cameras would result in more fines to those who dump illegally at the bin sites whose main purpose is to collect residential garbage.

Bill sponsor Sen. Blyden said most of the illegal dumping was done by business owners.

DeGazon questioned whether $500,000 was necessary for the project. She said her math indicated that the authority would be spending $45,000 per camera.

Ann Hanley, acting chief operating officer for the authority, said though the authority originally thought it would put cameras at 11 bin sites and her testimony said the authority would do 11 sites, but the authority was planning to do 14 sites and the sites would each have at least two and possibly four cameras. She said the funds would also be used to maintain the cameras in operational condition.

This did not satisfy Vialet, who said it would be necessary to have an exact figure with a breakdown of costs before the Senate could give the appropriation final approval.

O’Neal testified that the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund had $4 million and based on that the Office of Management and Budget had no objection to the appropriation of $500,000.

A third bill the senators called straightforward passed easily through the committee.

Sponsored by Blyden, it would transfer various duties and responsibilities from the Department of Property and Procurement and to the V.I. Housing Finance Authority.

Anthony Thomas, commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement, testified that most of the functions had already been transferred to the Housing Finance Authority and the Housing Authority. He did suggest some amendments to the bill which would address some “outdated issues” in the relevant statute.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.