May 15, 2002 – In the wake of three Mother's Day homicides on St. Thomas, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull has asked the Senate for $2.7 million for the Police Department for additional officers, vehicles, maintenance and supplies for the Motor Vehicles Departments on all islands and for one police psychologist.
In a letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, dated Monday and released to the news media Tuesday afternoon, Turnbull outlined that proposal and five others he has submitted for consideration at the Senate's full sessions scheduled for May 22 and 23.
Police authorities have said they want to launch more anti-crime initiatives, but they need more personnel. Turnbull said the appropriation — $1,108,685 for personnel, $1,156,076 for vehicles, $294,077 for MVD upgrades and $141,160 for MVD personnel — would be taken from the General Fund.
The same bill also includes an appropriation of $100,000 from the General Fund to the Human Services Department for the Women's Coalition of St. Croix and Bethlehem House on St. Thomas.
Four of the other bills would provide funding as follows:
– $1.7 million to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor for the reassessment of commercial property taxes mandated by a District Court order.
Lt. Gov. Gerard Luz James II, under whose office the Office of Tax Assessor falls, told Turnbull in a Monday letter that he was "appalled" by Turnbull's apparent "lack of urgency and concern" on the matter. The law, James told Turnbull, requires the Tax Assessor's Office to issue real property tax bills by May 15.
However, James stated in a Monday release, "Because of the ill-advised settlement of the Berne lawsuit, supplemental funding is needed to defray the fees and expenses incurred as a result of the District Court's appointment to oversee the Tax Assessor's Office in order to meet the requirements of the Berne settlement agreement and perform real property tax assessments." (For background, see the December 2000 story "Berne tax assessment case settled".)
Further, James said in the release that he had written Turnbull three times about "the need for supplemental funding for the re-evaluation of commercial properties mandated by the Berne settlement" and that "with only one day left before May 15," he had received no response from the governor.
– $4 million to the Public Works Department to satisfy the amended U.S. District Consent Order for sewer and waste management territorywide. The money would be deposited in a "Special Fund" to be used by Public Works in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish schedules for the design, construction, repair, upgrading and maintenance of the operation and collection systems of wastewater treatment facilities and plants.
– $850,000 to the Labor Department for a summer youth employment program and $600,000 to the Public Works Department for the Carnival cleanup program, paving streets and resurfacing the Fort Christian parking lot, where Carnival Village is set up. It would be funded through the Interest Revenue Fund.
– $1.9 million as a supplemental appropriation from the Unemployment Trust Fund to the Labor Department for the administration of unemployment insurance law and for the employment service program.
Turnbull's sixth proposal is for a V.I. Food Stamp Fraud Act to establish stronger penalties for the illegal use of food stamps.
Turnbull urged Liburd to act expeditiously on the measures.
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