May 28, 2002 – A request to the Senate Finance Committee from the Human Services Department for an appropriation transfer was put on hold Tuesday because the Health commissioner was not present to answer questions about the indicated source of the money.
Human Services had asked the Office of Management and Budget for the transfer of $1,255,000 to cover personnel services and other costs. Since the Legislature approved line-item Fiscal Year 2002 budgets for executive branch departments and agencies, any transfer of funds from one item to another within a budget must be approved by the Finance Committee.
Human Services Commissioner Sedonie Halbert told the senators the money is needed to fund a contract with The Devereux Foundation in Victoria, Texas, which provides residential services for 18 severely disabled adult Virgin Islanders. She said the patients are diagnosed with multiple disabilities and require complex medical and psychiatric treatment.
During Tuesday's hearing, according to a release from the Legislature's Office of Public Affairs, it became known that about $1,055,000 of the amount requested was to come from an allocation Legislature had made to the Charles Harwood Complex pharmacy for use in purchasing medications for the needy and in hiring a pharmacist.
Health Commissioner Mavis Matthew, along with Halbert and OMB director Ira Mills, had been "invited" to testify. She did not appear.
Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Finance Committee chair, halted discussion of the matter, saying she was sorry Matthew was not present to explain why the $1,055,000 was no longer needed by the pharmacy. Hansen also noted that Human Services had not requested funding for the Texas foundation's services during the Fiscal Year 2002 budget mark-up period, the release stated.
Halbert said her department also needs additional funding:
– $891,671 for the Boys and Girls Group Home.
– $805,519 for a crisis stabilization center.
– $524,000 for the Queen Louise Home for Children.
– $277,021 for the Seaview Adolescent Program.
– $540,000 for the Sister Emma Cottage.
– $116,000 for The Pines Treatment Center.
– $1,021.75 more for The Devereux Foundation.
Committee members acknowledged the critical need for the services represented by the funding requests but "agreed that to take the $1,055,000 from Health was not appropriate," the release said. Hansen recessed that part of the hearing until such time as Matthew is able to appear, and also so as "to give senators further opportunity to locate an alternative source of funding."
In other business, the committee voted to approve an application submitted by the Planning and Natural Resources Department for a federal grant of about $346,989. The grant application is being submitted to the National Park Service, with the money to be used for programs which promote historic preservation in the territory. All federal grant applications from V.I. government agencies must be approved by the Legislature.
Present and voting to approve the application Tuesday along with Hansen were Sens. Douglas Canton Jr., Donald "Ducks" Cole, Carlton Dowe and Norman Jn Baptiste. Sens. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg and Norma Pickard-Samuel were not present.
According to the Senate calendar, the day's agenda also had included consideration of a bill to authorize the issuance of bonds, notes or other evidences of indebtedness of the V.I. government and/or the Public Finance Authority. There was no mention of this item in the Legislature release.

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