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New Budget Appropriations a Source of Pride for Senators

Sept. 13, 2006 – During a Finance Committee meeting Tuesday, senators said they were proud of adjustments made to the miscellaneous section of the fiscal year 2007 executive budget, which includes appropriations for government departments and agencies, along with various youth groups, social programs and capital improvement projects.
Additionally, this section of the budget includes a $40 million appropriation for the Government Employees Retirement System, along with $5 million for design plans and specs for new schools.
"In the past, we have just been sent proposals for the construction of new schools," Sen. Louis P. Hill, the committee's chair, said. "There was an idea, for example, to build a new Cancryn school, but when it came down to it, there were no plans, no specs and no funds for the project. That's not the way to go about dealing with things like these."
Hill said senators decided to set aside money, which would give the executive branch the opportunity to select sites for the development of new schools, to hire architectural and engineering services and to do various cost assessments.
Sen. Neville James said senators also wanted to create a "balance" within the miscellaneous section by giving equal appropriations to agencies and programs operating in both districts — including the Humane Society; Bethlehem House; the Women's Resource Center and the St. Croix Women's Coalition; the Police Athletic League; and youth programs sponsored by Housing, Parks and Recreation, among others.
"Parity is alive and well in the miscellaneous section of the budget," James said.
Sen. Craig W. Barshinger said equal consideration was also given to the island of St. John – particularly in the area of parking. He explained that a $4 million appropriation to Public Works was included in the miscellaneous section for the construction of a multilevel parking garage. "I've said it over and over again – St. John's most critical problem is parking," Barshinger said.
He added that an additional $75,000 would go toward hiring a city planner, who would be responsible for "turning Cruz Bay into a town that is well-organized and planned."
Other significant appropriations included in the miscellaneous section are:
–$500,000 to the Division of Personnel to fund a compensation and classification study;
–$1.7 million to the Finance Department to reimburse retirees for amounts mistakenly deducted from their paychecks for Medicare premiums;
–$1.5 million to Human Services to help elderly, low income and disabled residents in paying their utility bills;
–$500,000 to Housing, Parks and Recreation to purchase land in Estate Contant on St. Thomas for affordable housing developments;
–$1.9 million to establish a National Guard Youth Challenge program at Juanita Gardine Elementary School on St. Croix;
–$400,000 to the Office of the Adjutant General for an air-conditioning system at the Lionel Jackson Armory on St. Croix;
–$250,000 to the St. Thomas Swimming Association to complete the construction of a swimming pool on the East End of St. Thomas;
–$150,000 for the horseracing commission in each district; and
–$1.5 million to Housing, Parks and Recreation for the Home Loan Program.
The entire FY 2007 executive budget – which now totals approximately $828 million – was approved by senators Tuesday and sent to the Rules Committee for further review.
Once the bill passes through Rules, it will continue on to the full Senate body for a final vote.
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