July 22, 2004 – The Office of the Governor will see a reduction in its fiscal year 2005 budget as compared to the FY 2004 budget, Alric Simmonds, deputy chief of staff to the governor, told the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday.
Stating that the office of the chief executive had to set the example, Simmonds requested $6.69 million for the Governor's Office, a 6.58 percent decrease from the FY 2004 budget submission of $7.1 million.
"We are committed to doing more with less," Simmonds said. "However, given our budget constraints, we are strongly requesting that we be given a lump-sum budget."
Simmonds said most of the $471,436 reduction actually is being transferred to the Bureau of Information Technology recently established with the passage of legislation.
Angel Turnbull, special assistant to the governor for information technology, presented the bureau's first-time request of $1,057,529.
Recruiting is ongoing for the six positions that have been created for the bureau, Angel Turnbull said. These are the director/chief information officer, special assistant for information technology, information technology project manager, network technician, finance manager and administrative secretary.
"The Bureau of Information Technology properly funded can be a great asset to this government," Angel Turnbull said.
The immediate goals of the bureau are its organization, a government-wide area network upgrade, connectivity of all agencies not presently connected, development of a governmental portal system, re-establishment of the government Web site and the implementing of videoconferencing capability among government agencies.
Of the total Governor's Office budget, $428,749 is slated for the Bureau of Economic Research. This is approximately $63,787 more than it's the bureau's FY 2004 request.
"The reason for this increase is to accommodate a financial officer position and a small increase in operating expenses," Simmonds said.
Lauritz Mills, bureau director, said the bureau will be initiating visitor exit and customs card surveys to obtain information on the territory's visitors. It also will conduct a benefit analysis of the beneficiaries of the Economic Development Program, she said.
"The economy is improving," Mills said. "Just not at the rate that we would like."
Lieutenant Governor's Office
Delbert Hewitt, chief of operations for the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, presented the agency's budget request of $5.2 million, $3.1 million of which is for personnel costs.
The Lieutenant Governor's Office has five divisions: Business and Financial Management, Management Information Systems, Real Property Tax/Recorder of Deeds, Banking and Insurance, and Corporations and Trademarks.
"Positive change is well under way, and improvements have been noted in every division, from greater employee morale and productivity to increased revenue collection in various divisions from 17 to 48 percent," Hewitt said.
Hewitt said the District Court-ordered revaluation of commercial and residential properties has begun. Bearing Point Inc. has been contracted to do the revaluations.
Human Services Department
Human Services Commissioner Sedonie Halbert presented her lump-sum budget request of $38.7 million an increase of $4.3 million from FY 2004. She said the increase is for additional programs and required staffing.
The department currently has 908 filled positions — 453 locally funded and 455 federally funded. Halbert said the department also has 101 vacant positions.
"The department continues to experience problems in filling critical vacant positions for social workers, nurses, vocational rehabilitation counselors and certification specialists," Halbert said.
She also said the Juvenile Intensive Support Services program on St. Thomas will come to an end in September. The program served as an alternative sentence for minors and was funded by a grant from the Law-Enforcement Planning Commission.
"Unfortunately, funding is no longer available, as the program has reached the maximum number of years for which funding can be awarded," Halbert said.
Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, the Finance Committee chair, asked Halbert whether she will seek additional funding for the program. Halbert said she will keep looking for other funding possibilities.
"We hate to see it end, but short of a miracle we can't see it continue," Halbert said.
Committee members attending the hearing were: Donastorg and Sens. Roosevelt David and Shawn-Michael Malone. Sens. Louis Hill, Norman Jn Baptiste, Luther Renee and Ronald Russell were absent.
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