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BUDGET HEARINGS BRING MORE PLEAS FOR MORE

July 18, 2002 – More government agencies took their pleas for more generous funding to the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday in a continuing parade of hearings being held on St. Croix until next Tuesday, when they move to St. Thomas.
Agriculture Commissioner Henry Schuster said his agency has so far documented more than 5,450 animals since it started a registration and impoundment program in March. The initial phase has been quite successful, he said, and, "once completed, it would be a sham to allow the program to deteriorate due to lack of funding and personnel," The Avis reported Thursday.
Schuster cited the registration program and many other accomplishments to justify the recommended Fiscal Year 2003 budget of $3.2 million, up from the current $2.8 million.
Adj. Gen. Cleve McBean told the committee that the territory was prepared to meet a hurricane but not a terrorist attack. He said $300,000 is needed by the Office of the Adjutant General on top of the $1.5 million FY 2003 budget request in order to operate a homeland security section.
"Failure to fund this requirement could seriously hamper the V.I. in obtaining/participating in millions of dollars generated in homeland security functions," Harold Baker, director of the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency, said, according to the published report.
Property and Procurement Commissioner Marc Biggs said the $4.7 million recommended by the executive branch for his department would be "just enough to function." He asked the committee to award "substantially increased funding" for FY 2003.
Biggs said while his department's costs have escalated, its allotments have decreased. He said Property and Procurement has been denied funding to maintain its computer equipment, thereby making it impossible to carry out an inventory of the government's property. Since 1999, the department's annual budget has decreased by about $700,000.
"I'm going to roll with the governor's submittal," Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Finance Committee chair, said. But she said she would seek to provide money to hire three property inspectors, which Biggs said he needed.
The Personnel Division also made its presentation.

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