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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday to receive testimony from the V.I. Department of Justice and the Public Service Commission on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget appropriations.

Governor Kenneth Mapp’s recommended budget for the Department of Justice totals $22,493,985. The budget breakdown is as follows: $15,209,397 from the General Fund, $805,000 from the Miscellaneous Section and $6,497,588 from non-appropriated Federal Funds. “Are the federal grants appropriately utilized?” inquired Sen. Marvin Blyden. The Dept. of Justice Chief Financial Officer Kaj Williams stated that all federal grants are expended appropriately.

“The Post Audit Report states that telecommunication services are $85,244. Please explain,” said Sen. Kurt Vialet. CFO Williams stated that the Dept. has an outstanding balance of $15,000 for telecommunication services. The remaining balance covers telecommunication expenses for the rest of FY 2019. Sen. Vialet inquired about the rising costs of utilities from $157,000 as of March 30th to $314,000 by the end of FY 2019. CFO Williams stated that the Department is relocating to a new building on St. Croix and the utility cost may increase.

The Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) paid claimants and plaintiffs for litigation and administrative tort claims. The total amount of settlements paid out of the Judgement Fund is $340,672.58. Currently, there has $207,739.68 paid out from over $25,000 Judgement Fund; $100,928.79 from the under $25,000 Judgement Fund; and $32, 004.11 from the Administrative Tort Claim Fund stated Joseph Ponteen, V.I. Chief Deputy Attorney General of the Dept. of Justice.

Similarly, the Department’s Medical Malpractice Review Unit has a total of 91 open cases. Thus far, there are 14 cases closed with settlements totaling $1,333,000. “Are the physicians required to pay or is it only the responsibility of GVI?” asked Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly. Chief Ponteen said, “Medical practices are expected to pay the insurance companies for medical malpractice. Meanwhile, GVI is responsible for covering the balance of the settlements to the plaintiffs.”

Separately, the Virgin Islands Public Service Commission (PSC) shared their FY 2019 budget. Donald Cole, Executive Director of PSC, stated that the governor’s recommended budget is $1,779,975.45. Comparatively, this is a $2,108.93 reduction from the FY 2018 appropriation. Currently, PSC is operating from the 2017 revenue assessment of $1,782,084.37.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Tregenza Roach, Dwayne DeGraff, Neville James, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Jean Forde, Novelle Francis and Marvin Blyden. Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                       ###