The Virgin Islands Police Department presented a $62 million budget for the next fiscal year, a $6 million reduction from the last fiscal year’s budget. In presenting the proposed budget to the Senate Finance Committee, department officials also pointed out that the department has cut overtime hours, which has been a longstanding issue with the department’s spending.
“Overtime has been reduced substantially in fiscal year 2020 when compared to fiscal year 2019. VIPD has added measures to monitor overtime,” VIPD Commissioner Trevor Velinor told lawmakers during Thursday’s hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance,
The department’s budget shows a 42 percent decrease in overtime hours, having expended just over $9 million in overtime through June 4. Comparatively, the department spent $15.5 million during the same period last year. Velinor said it is the department’s projection that there will be an overall 44 percent decrease in overtime hours for this fiscal year.
Though a drastic reduction, “overtime is incurred as a result of unforeseen circumstances, patrol initiatives to deter violence or enforcement mandates. Police operations will continue to incur overtime due to challenges of manpower shortage,” Velinor said.
However, VIPD has satisfied the required documentation to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 98 overtime reimbursements that date back to 2017. Velinor said there are 25 project worksheets (PWs) obligated that total over $2.2 million. “Drawdowns have been approved by FEMA for four PWs in the amount of $236,667 and three PWs for overtime in the amount of $1,309,017 has been submitted for drawdown.”
There are still four additional project worksheets pending obligation. Of those, two project worksheets are specific to overtime reimbursement that are still under review by FEMA.
Sen. Kurt Vialet said the department needs to continue to monitor overtime and at this point, VIPD should be experts in demonstrating accountability.
“If no one oversees overtime, then VIPD will continue to lose a lot of money,” Vialet said.
Sen. Janelle Sarauw cautioned the department to utilize federal funds before they expire on Sept. 30.
“There is a major issue with using federal grants in the territory. If all the monies are not expended before the deadline $1 million will be returned to the federal government, and the balance will fall on the burden on the General Fund,” Sarauw said.
All committee members – Sens. Sarauw, Vialet, Donna Frett-Gregory, Marvin Blyden, Oakland Benta, Allison DeGazon, Dwayne DeGraff – were present for the finance hearing.