ST. CROIX- The Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet held a budget hearing on Thursday at the University of the Virgin Islands Great Hall, St. Croix with several government agencies. The agencies were V.I. Fire Services (VIFS); V.I. Police Department (VIPD); V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA; and Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC).
Testifying for VIPD, Commission Delroy Richards said the Fiscal Year 2019 recommended budget for VIPD is $63.6 million. The General Fund appropriation is $60,551,208 which represents a decrease of $2,531,208 from the 2018 appropriation of $63,082,416.
Comm. Richards told committee members that Consent Decree budget is $1,867,562 and miscellaneous appropriation total to $325, 000. According to him, VIPD is expected to receive approximately $2,147,833 in federal funds for the Fiscal Year 2019.
In respect to the increased in entry-level pay increases, Comm. Richards said that in May, VIPD increased entry-level salary from $30,000 to $40,000 and police academy recruit pay from $27,00 to $30,000. He added that all officers with salaries below $40,953 (about 70-percent) will have their salaries increased to the baseline of $40,953.
VITEMA Director Mona Barnes said its Fiscal Year 2019 proposed budget is $18,200,294 it consists of $5,183,178 in appropriated funds and $13,017,116 in non-appropriated funds. According to the Director, the agency is expected to receive approximately $12,410,288 in federal funds.
Regarding the 911 system, Barnes told committee members that VITEMA requested $606,000 from the Emergency Services Fund to take care of equipment repairs and training for Emergency Call Centers operators. Furthermore, some of the money will be used to transition 911 centers to "next Generation 911 centers which, she added will be a more efficient and "self-effective "digital system."
Franz Christian, Director of LEPC said the agency's recommended operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 is $801,153. The FY2019 budget shows a 12.5-percent reduction of the fiscal year 2018 budget amounting to $114,449. He added that the General Fund budget contains salaries, fringe benefits, other services and utilities such as ret, telephone, inter-island travel, vehicle, and fuel costs.
Christian said in FY17, LEPC was able to secure approximately $2,487,690 in federal funds from Fy2017 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP); Juvenile Justice Prison Rape Elimination Act (JJPREA); Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA); Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Grant (RSAT); Victims of Crime Assistance Grant (VOCA); and Violence Against Women STOP Grant (VAWA). To date, added Christian, for FY18 LEPC has applied for approximately $2,423,253 in federal funds.
V.I. Fire Service Director (VIFS), Clifford Joseph, said the agency's total recommended operating budget for FY2019 is $21,121,447. Out of this, the General Fund appropriation is $18,934,637. According to him, 98-percent of this will be allocated to personnel costs and the rest mandatory costs such as rent, utilities, travel, and communications.
According to Joseph, the agency operates and or provide support to 11 fire stations throughout the territory and employs 282 personnel. Each employee is assigned to one of the agency's three operational units. These units are the Suppression unit, the Arson Investigation and Prevention Unit and the Administrative Unit.
Committee members at Thursday's Budget hearing were Chairman Senator Kurt A. Vialet, Marvin A. Blyden, Neville A. James, Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly, Brian A. Smith, Tregenza A. Roach, and Dwayne M. DeGraff. Non-Committee member was senator Novelle Francis, Jr.