ST. THOMAS - Members of the Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Thursday, to consider several measures that were proposed by Sen. Myron Jackson at the request of Governor Kenneth Mapp, including Bill No. 32-0089 as it relates to the reprogramming of a portion of the proceeds from the Matching Funds to the V.I. Department of Education (VIDE) to finance critical maintenance needs.
“VIDE is requesting the re-appropriation for the remaining Bond Funding from previously completed Capital Improvement Projects in the sum of $732,136,000,” said Commissioner of Education Sharon McCollum.
The projects include renovations of an existing unoccupied building for the consolidation of the Jane E. Tuitt Elementary School and Dober Elementary School which totals $643,000, establishing a Performing Arts Center and renovating the St. Thomas Headquarters restrooms and employee lounge which totals $89,136, added Commissioner McCollum.
Sen. Sammuel Sanes said, “I noticed that there are no projects or monies that will be re-appropriated to schools on St. Croix.” He asked, “Is there a Plan B?” Commissioner McCollum said, “There is a Plan B. We have over $2 million to repair the track at Central High School. There is also a considerable amount of work to be done at the Educational Complex. The remainder of the funds will be used towards additional projects on St. Croix.”
Sen. Novelle Francis asked, “Are renovating the restrooms at the St. Thomas Headquarters a priority?” Commissioner McCollum said, “It is one of many priorities that DOE is facing. We will develop a proposal to tackle renovations and repairs for the St. Croix School District.”
“Although, the Performing Arts Center and the restroom upgrades to the St. Thomas Headquarters are important, there needs to be additional revenues to establish a Trade Zone,” said Sen. Marvin Blyden. “It is place where students will be able to learn a trade and become certified upon graduating from High School. The Trade Zone will keep youngsters out of trouble while focusing on developing a trade.”
Separately, lawmakers also considered Bill No. 32-0087. The measure seeks to authorize the Department of Property and Procurement to purchase certain real property on behalf of the people the completion of the Paul E. Joseph Stadium on the Island of St. Croix.
Act 7663 authorized $17.5 million, Act 7778 authorized $1,185,413 and Act 7903 appropriated $3,696,750 to be used towards financing various aspects of the costs associated with the Paul E. Joseph Stadium; according to information on the Post Audit Report.
Sen. Vialet asked, “Can you give me a precise balance of the funds remaining from Act 7778, Act 7903 and Act 7663?” Gustav James, Commissioner of Public Works stated that he does not have that information with him today.
“What is the estimated cost to complete the Paul E. Joseph Stadium?” asked Sen. Vialet. Commissioner James stated that $17 million is needed to complete the projects associated everything that was shown on the map that was presented during the meeting.
“Thus far, out of the $17 million, how much was expended?” inquired Sen. Vialet. Commissioner James stated that only $3 million was spent. Sen. Vialet asked, “Are the authorized and appropriated funds enough to complete the Paul E. Joseph Stadium?” Commissioner James said, “No, the monies can only complete different phases of the project but it is not enough to finish it entirely.”
“We have to seriously consider how monies are being spent in the government. How can we pass a bill without all the financial information present? Even if the measure is approved, the Paul E Joseph Stadium will still not be completed,” said Sen. Vialet.”
Ultimately, policymakers held in committee the following: Bill No. 32-0087, Bill No. 32-0089, Bill No. 32-0090, Bills No. 32-0091, Bill No. 32-0094.
However, lawmakers voted favorably for Bill No. 32-0088 - An Act to provide for the reprogramming of funds appropriated from the Community Facilities Trust Account authorized under Act No. 7012 for certain capital projects through the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation. It will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.