May 30, 2002 – Gov. Charles W. Turnbull is counting on improved tax collections and numerous intergovernmental fund transfers to balance his proposed Fiscal Year 2003 budget of $567.7 million.
The governor just made it under the wire with the delivery of the budget, which he released Thursday in time to meet the May 31 deadline for its submission to the Legislature.
The 2003 budget represents a $16.7 million increase in spending over Turnbull's request for FY 2002, and a whopping $138.1 million over his FY 2001 proposal. Fiscal Year 2003 begins on Oct. 1, 2002.
The budget package does not contain any new taxes or major surprises.
In his transmittal letter to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd, Turnbull indicates that what he considers to be his most significant proposal is not contained in the budget: the creation of a new Waste Management Authority.
"Because of its long-term commitment, beyond this fiscal year, to a new way of life for us on these islands, I have submitted enabling legislation and funding for the new Authority separately," Turnbull said.
The budget estimates 2003 income taxes at $314.5 million, up from actual collections of $303 million in 2001. The projected increase is all in individual income taxes; in fact, the administration is predicting a slight drop in corporate income tax collections — from 2001's actual $32.8 million to a projected $28.5 million in 2003.
Turnbull is expecting a significant rise in real property tax collections. He is projecting revenues of $62.4 million in 2003; in 2001 the government actually collected $50.7 million. In addition to the $62.4 million, Turnbull is projecting collections of $8 million in delinquent property tax accounts. No delinquent collections are shown for 2001.
A pie chart illustrating the expenses of the government shows well over half the money is going to government workers — 47.27 percent for "personal services" (salaries) and another 15.25 percent for fringe benefits.
The budget package contains a bill authorizing the budget director to take from the miscellaneous section of the budget up to $4 million for each and every one of the government's many departments and agencies to pay for employee salary increases.
Some of the other provisions would:
– Take $5 million from the Insurance Guarantee Fund — the territory's hedge against insurance collapse — for general operating expenses.
– Privatize, at least temporarily, the East End Family Health Center on St. Thomas and the Frederiksted Health Center/Ingeborg Nesbitt Clinic on St. Croix.
– End the government subsidy of water and other utilities for homeowners of the Altona and Castle Burke communities.
– Defer the transfer of $2 million into the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund from the Internal Revenue Matching Fund, because the money in the fund is needed for long-term debt service.
– Appropriate $4.5 million to the local PBS affiliate, WTJX-TV, to pay for the federally mandated conversion to a digital system.
– Take $575,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund — hotel room taxes earmarked for tourism advertising — and divide it up among the territory's three major annual festivals.
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