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V.I. National Guard Talks Budget With Legislature

The Office of the Adjutant General, which oversees the V.I. National Guard, defended its 2011 budget request of $1.4 million during budget hearings in Frederiksted Wednesday.
Most of that funding pays the salaries of civilian employees and renovations and upkeep of their buildings and vehicles, while the bulk of VING funding comes from federal sources, National Guard officials said.
"For every dollar the Virgin Islands contributes, the federal government will give approximately $100," said Lt. Col. Deborah Lobbenmeier, comptroller for the V.I. National Guard.
Last year, the V.I. National Guard’s total 2010 federal budget was 31.7 million, while for fiscal 2011, it jumps to $51.3 million. The increase is for the cost of constructing a Joint Forces Headquarters building in Estate Bethlehem on St. Croix., Lobbenmeier said.
The local funds are for purely local administrative functions within the OTAG itself and for matching funds needed to receive various federal funds.
The $1.4 million General Fund appropriation is $40,000, or 2.7 percent less than last year’s appropriation. That total includes $505,000 for wages and salaries, $180,009 for benefits, $195,000 for capital outlays and $246,000 for utilities.
Capital outlays include about $185,000 to replace the roof over the assembly hall at Lionel A. Jackson Armory on St. Croix and another $10,000 to install a fire alarm at the Leonard B. Francis Armory on St. Thomas. Those amounts, along with some specific allotments in the budget, are required to receive matching federal funds for the projects.
Along with the $1.4 million, VING expects another $50,000 from the miscellaneous section for the National Guard pension fund and $4.8 million in federal funds.
The $1.4 million from the V.I. General Fund primarily pays the salaries of civilian employees, as well as some building renovation and maintenance. Certain amounts of matching local funds are necessary to receive federal building maintenance funds, and five of the six SUVs listed by the VING are paid for from the general fund.
In addition to the National Guard functions as an adjunct to the U.S. military, VING has a drug education program in the schools, coordinates with police drug interdiction efforts, maintains readiness to respond to a hazardous material situation, and along with VITEMA, has training, manpower and equipment to assist in the aftermath of a hurricane or other natural calamity.
No votes were taken at the budget oversight hearing. Committee members present were Sens. Craig Barshinger, Nereida "Nellie" O’Reilly, Carlton "Ital" Dowe and Sammuel Sanes. Absent were Sens. Wayne James, Louis Hill and Patrick Sprauve.

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