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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, May 21, 2024
HomeNewsLocal governmentDepartment of Property and Procurement For “Best Presentation!”

Department of Property and Procurement For “Best Presentation!”

Department of Property and Procurement Administration Team working collectively to give lawmakers the answers to pressing questions (Photo by Barry Leerdam)

The Department of Property and Procurement Commissioner nominee Lisa Alejandro and her team gave “the best presentation” during Monday’s Committee on Budget, Appropriation, and Finance, said Sen. Ray Fonseca.

“If all of the other commissioners and who all come before the Legislature could put together their budget information like this it would help the senators a lot,” said Fonseca.

The FY 2024 General Fund request is $13,759,829 with personnel services of $2,773,915 to cover 29 filled exempt positions of $1,936,500; fifteen filled classified positions of $635,715; four vacant exempt positions of $158,700; and one vacant classified position of $43,000, said Alejandro.

The department has 84 active full-time employees and has completed salary adjustments for all 17 employees in the United Steel Workers Masters Union. In addition to the increase, retroactive wages were also paid to the 17 employees. Additionally, a total of two employees were promoted, and eight were hired, which includes four in the Division of Procurement, three in the Division of Property and Printing, and one in the Division of Transportation. During this fiscal year, the department lost nine employees – one retired and eight resigned, according to testimony. 

“Currently, the Fiscal Unit is understaffed with only six employees – four on St. Thomas, one on St. Croix, and a territorial administrator. Ideally, the unit should also be staffed with two program managers and one collection agent to assist with the department’s collection activities for the Business and Commercial Properties Unit,” said Alejandro.  

“How is the understaffing of the fiscal unit with only six employees impact the department’s ability to effectively handle operations and collections for the business and commercial properties,” asked Sen. Angel Bolques.

Lawmakers were concerned with the collection for lease payments as Deputy Commissioner of Property and Printing Vincent Richards reported there is $1.5 million of uncollected lease funds.

However, Administrator of Fiscal Services Gerda D. Sebastien assured lawmakers that “we are visiting sites, calling, emailing, and making everybody know that it is mandatory to pay your rent, and are accessing the late fees.”

“I really hope that you’re able to attract the necessary talent needed in order to fill those positions because that’s a huge undertaking,” said Bolques.

Among the many undertakings the department faces, a “$1.8 million negative balance in the Business and Commercial Property Fund reflected in the post-audit report that challenged the governors’ recommendation” caused Sen. Marvin A. Bylden to inquire about the “discrepancy.”   

The Business and Commercial unit oversees lease negotiations, processing, and lease administration for all property the government leases to the public. Currently, there are 161 tenants and 35 vendor permittees. The business and commercial rent roll is valued at $3,781,739.76 annually, with revenues deposited into the Business and Commercial Properties Revolving Fund, according to testimony. 

The deficit was reported from previous years and “carries the wealth of the salaries,” DPP is “attempting to collect towards its lease whole value,” said Sebastien.

Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory stated that they have asked the Department of Finance to reconcile these accounts “because this year if they have accounts in the red they will not be budgeting against them.”

Despite the challenges, DPP is making progress as the Division of Transportation is geared towards transforming the government’s fleet to include alternative fuel, hybrid, and electric-powered vehicles. With a Gasoline Coupon Fund budget of $1,500,000, the initiative is driven by electric vehicle adoption, a public charging network, and training for technical staff, according to testimony. 

Among the various changes happening within the department, “the government of the Virgin Islands is working to transition from Third-Party oversight, which will require DPP to manage the capital assets that the Department of Finance is currently administering. With the division administering capital assets, two warehouses are necessary, one on St. Croix and St. Thomas, so all fixed/capital assets can be received and tagged before distribution to the central government agencies. With the creation of the warehouses, 10 additional staff will be needed to fill,” said Alejandro.

With additional staffing to consider, fringe benefits are funded at $1,302,088, operating supplies at $426,940, and utilities are funded at $400,000. Other services are funded at $8,856,885. Included in Other Services is $7,357,300 to cover costs associated with the Government’s property insurance program. Once mandatory operating costs such as personnel, fringe benefits, utilities, and insurance are satisfied, the department’s actual operating budget from the General Fund is $1,926,526, according to testimony. 

Alejandro was thankful to the Senate body for “asking the questions that we need to address our internal processes and to create better governance for our people.”

Due to a series of events, the Taxicab Commission was dismissed by Chairwoman Frett-Gregory from Monday’s Budget hearing.

Sens. Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Novelle E. Francis Jr., Marvin A. Blyden, Angel L. Bolques Jr, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Kenneth L. Gittens, Javan E. James, Sr., Carla J. Joseph, and Milton E. Potter. were in attendance at Monday’s hearing.

  

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