Nine government agencies asked the Virgin Islands Legislature Wednesday to move money around to fund projects not in their original 2023 budgets. The senators unanimously approved all the requests.
Office of Management and Budget Director Jenifer O’Neal and Associate Director Kimika Woods supported the appropriation transfers but urged the Senate to require the money be used by end-of-day Dec. 31.
The Department of Planning and Natural Resources requested a $560,000 appropriation transfer from its personnel and fringe budget categories to the supplies and capital outlay categories.
Commissioner Jean-Pierre Oriol said part of the money was to fix DPNR’s Mars Hill office, which hadn’t been updated since 2001. Another portion would go to repair the historic Gustav Quetel Fish Market in St. Thomas’ Frenchtown — patching a leaking roof, replacing damaged doors and door jambs, painting off the structure, and other repairs. Another $45,000 would go to purchase a new vehicle — likely for the St. Croix district, Oriol said.
Oriol also hoped to better build out the department’s intranet and other communications to better connect satellite offices, the primary offices, and the community as a whole.
“This request will help the department address shortfalls for the procurement of vital operating supplies,” he said.
The Human Services Department asked permission to move $4,905,000 from its personnel and fringe budget to the other services and charges budget category.
Denelle Baptiste, the department’s assistant commissioner, said the money was to address various budgeting “shortfalls.”
The department needs to move $2.9 million for Medicaid claims, nearly $1.37 million for Medicaid and SNAP contractual obligations, and close to $400,000 to air conditioning and further buildout of the Sunny Isles office. Human Services also needed to shuffle $189,000 for furnishing and $54,500 for other needs.
“The appropriation transfer will also address the realignment of funds for the Vocational Rehabilitation program,” Baptiste said.
The Health Department requested to transfer $800,000 from its personnel and fringe budget categories to the other services and charges budget category to meet the required Maintenance of Effort for their Maternal and Children Health program. The request will also assist the department with addressing the cost for the facilities that cater to their off-island behavioral health patients and assist with covering the increased cost for leasing due to the need to relocate the St. Croix offices from the Charles Harwood complex.
The Office of Management and Budget asked to transfer $672,000 from its other services and charges budget category to its supplies and utilities categories. This request covers final costs for outfitting all of the agencies’ office locations.
Initial plans for the Finance Department’s Annex on St. Thomas and a new office on St. Croix included building separate office spaces for the staff. To ensure the office remains efficient and effective, the department switched to using cubicles — ensuring adequate space was available to accommodate new staff. The main office was modernized, but the air conditioning units were failing and need to be replaced.
The Public Works Department requested to shift $900,000 from its personnel and fringe budget categories to its other services and charges and the capital outlay budget categories.
The request is to assist with efforts to upgrade the damaged chain link fence and masonry wall, and signage at Western Cemetery #3. The money will also go to repair pavement and vaults in disrepair and the removal of tree stumps and dead trees throughout the entire Western Cemetery. Public Works also hopes to add ADA-compliant ramps and aluminum gates at Western Cemetery #1 and #3. The reprogrammed funds would also assist the department with buying vital specialized equipment vital and aid with its beautification projects currently underway in both districts.
The Labor Department asked to transfer $461,113 from its personnel and fringe budget to its capital outlay budget category. The transfer would assist with the buildout of its office in the St. Thomas district. Another $1,076,635.71 would go to the other services and charges budget to reduce the outstanding obligation to medical providers for Workers’ Compensation claims.
The Property and Procurement Department asked to move $300,000 from its supplies budget to the capital outlay budget category for emergency response efforts for all disasters. DPP needs three generators: one for the Division of Transportation, one for its main St. Thomas building, and one for its St. Croix modular units, said Lisa Maria Alejandro, commissioner designee.
The Education Department requested to shift $1,660,151 from the personnel and fringe budget to the other services and charges budget to allow it to pay outstanding and prior year obligations to vendors.
The Justice Department asked to move $394,858 from its personnel budget category to its other services and charges budget. This request is to help it cover operational costs, including transporting dead bodies from one island to another for autopsies in the absence of adequate staffing for medical examiners.