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St. Croix–The Committee on Finance, chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, met on Thursday, July 27, 2017 in the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room, St. Croix with the Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) and the Bureau of Information Technology (BIT) for their 2018 Budget hearing.

Franz A. Christian, Director LEPC which is the Commission vested with the responsibility of assisting the Governor in developing policies, plans, programs, and budgets directed at improving the coordination, administration, and effectiveness of the criminal Justice System within the territory said, originally the Commission was appropriated $915,603 for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 from the General Fund, but was subsequently reduced due to budgetary constraints.

According to Christian, the governor recommended $818,769 for FY 2018 General Fund. He pointed out that 52-percent of that budget represents salaries, 23-percent represents fringe benefits, and 25-percents represents operating expenses.

Director Christian said the Commission will manage an estimated $3,011,241 of Federal Funds. These funds will benefit our youths, families in need of assistance, domestic violence intervention, and support of our criminal justice systems.

He told the committee that his long-term goal is to transfer his vested grant managers’ positions from Federal Funds to the General Fund Budget. The reason he said, is that the Commission can no longer afford to operate and manage millions of federal dollars without having adequate staffing to fulfill their federal mandates.

Other testifier was Ana Creque, Financial Management Supervisor.

Angelo Riddick, Director and Chief Information Officer (CIO), of BIT said the two major operational responsibilities of his agency as a central coordinating agency are to address the Information Technology (IT) implementation and Emergency Communication infrastructure operations within the Executive Branch of the Virgin Islands Government.

According to Riddick, BIT requested a budget for FY 2018 in the amount of $2,266,483. In addition, they also requested $3,122,732 under the Miscellaneous Appropriations to support the IT infrastructure and emergency communications operations within the Enterprise. The request, he added, includes $1,861,993 to cover the cost of software licensing for Microsoft products, and the cost of renewal licensing for BIT’s video conferencing system.

Riddick explained to the Committee that the request of $1,260,739 is an additional for maintenance costs and lease for tower sites territory-wide. The request will also cover the cost of maintaining The Virgin Islands Government Transparency Portal, as well as other IT and emergency communications costs, to include the cost associated with connecting to the viNGN infrastructure and the cost of the V-Block for continuity of operations and data storage. This, he added will bring their total budget to $5,389,215.

The BIT Director and CIO requested a lump sum appropriation budget saying it is to effectively manage and move funds from one category to another category given the unique circumstances that occur on a daily basis.

Other testifiers for BIT were Hasina Harris, Chief Operational Officer and David Parris, Facilities Manager.

Committee members at Thursday’s budget hearing were: Chairman, Senator Kurt A.Vialet, Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Tregenza A. Roach and Brian A. Smith. Non-Committee member was Senator Alicia “Chucky” Hansen.