The Senate Finance Committee approved Tuesday a $1.25 million year-end appropriation transfer within the Health Department budget and a smaller $161,000 transfer within the Internal Revenue Bureau.
Such transfers are a frequent part of the territory's budget process, as agencies with detailed line-item budgets struggle with revenues, expenses and pressing needs that do not perfectly match projections made a year previously.
Health’s Chief Financial Officer Angus Drigo told the committee the department needs to take $1.25 million in unspent funding for wages and benefits and put it toward more pressing needs. The funds would allow the Bureau of Health Insurance and the Medical Assistance Program to purchase supplies, pay utility bills and pay medical bills, he said.
It would also allow the Mental Health Division and the Maternal and Child Health Clinic to buy supplies and pay outstanding bills.
According to Drigo, there are about 29 vacant positions at Health that are funded under the 2012 budget.
"Why were the positions not filled?" asked Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly.
"We are in the process of filling them, but they are not filled yet," Drigo said.
Of the sum to be transferred, $607,000 is to be dedicated for professional services, including $354,000 for MAP vendor payments. Another $312,000 is for grants to private agencies for services, and $104,000 is for utilities.
The committee also approved a transfer of $161,000 previously dedicated for wages, salaries and benefits at IRB, to pay for staff training.
IRB Executive Director Claudette Watson-Anderson testified the funds would go to pay two retired federal Internal Revenue Service officers for training. "One we already have a small contract with because of a Department of the Interior grant whose renewal is not forthcoming, and another person we are pursuing," said Watson-Anderson.
Voting yea on both measures were O'Reilly, Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Shawn-Michael Malone, Sammuel Sanes, Celestino White and Janette Millin-Young. Sen. Louis Patrick Hill was absent.