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Conference Spotlights Concerns and Hopes for Government Programs

Public Works Derek Gabriel pointed out that though VITRAN and parking lots generate revenue, they operate at a loss. (Screenshot from Facebook live stream)

Residents tuning into the Facebook broadcast of the 2024 Spring Revenue Estimating Conference had reasons for hope and concern.

Most of the territory’s revenue-generating agencies and some private-sector stakeholders presented the audience with historical data about revenue collection and gave future predictions.

This fiscal year’s downturn in revenue generated so far could warrant concern. Department heads’ predictions that major FEMA projects will reach the construction stage and pump millions upon millions of federal dollars into the territory’s economy in the coming year could also warrant hope.

Finance Commissioner Kevin McCurdy said that, as of April 26, the territory had $461 million in total operating revenues when it had been predicted that revenues would be $530 million at this point.

Revenues were $506 million at this point in the 2023 fiscal year and $556 million in 2022. McCurdy said this brought the territory’s revenue back to its 2019 level. At this point in 2019, revenue collections were $451 million.

Office of Management and Budget Director Jenifer O’Neal, who hosted the conference, said, “We have kind of tapped out our revenue sources.”

McCurdy said the territory needed to get its significant projects going to have money flowing into the territory.

Public Works Department Commissioner Derek Gabriel predicted just that in his presentation.

Residents of the West End of St. Croix have been waiting long for projects for which Gabriel said he would invest millions over the next couple of years. Projects he said DPW would invest $22 million this year and $40 million next year include Mahogany Road, Frederiksted streets, Vincent Mason Pool, and Paul E. Joseph Stadium.

Gabriel also spoke about his department’s income from VITRAN, cemeteries, and parking lots. In 2023, those operations brought in $698,000. He predicted that in 2025, they would bring in $845,000. VITRAN rates have increased, and government parking lots that have been free will have charges again.

He added that the department is contemplating raising fees at the cemeteries and that half the territory’s cemeteries are running out of land.

 

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