ST. THOMAS, Virgin Islands, July 10 -- The U.S. Virgin Islands legislature issued the following news release:
The Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Clifford F. Graham continued the FY 2015 budget review process with the Dept. of Personnel (DOP) and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall Thursday.
Rochelle Benjamin, Financial Management Supervisor and Acting Chief of Group Health Insurance for the DOP provided the budget overview for the upcoming fiscal year. "The overall budget approved by the governor to support the DOP for FY 2015 is $2,970,814. Of this amount, $2,528,164 is charges against the general fund and $442,650 is charged against the indirect cost fund," she said.
Sen. Graham proposed a new way of looking at fiscal efficiency in government agencies. Though the committee chairman made it clear that he was "not advocating for a smaller government" which would decrease the number of employees paying in to the Government Employees Retirement System, he said that it was possible to streamline costs. The majority senator proposed that government agencies share resources to prevent overlapping costs. For example, he said, with the implementation of a government motor pool, one department using a van that seats 14 for one hour three times a week could make the same vehicle available to other agencies when the primary user has no need for it. DOP Director Kenneth Hermon agreed.
Sen. Graham also inquired about the health risk assessment that government employees and retirees are required to complete by September 14 to avoid a $500 penalty to be deducted biweekly at $20.38 over the course of a year. The senator wanted to know if sufficient notice would be given to members.
Hermon explained that while the penalty was in place for members who choose not to take the assessment, the cost could be avoided.
Later Percival Clouden, CEO of the EDA said in his testimony that the department was doing everything in its power to spend only when necessary. "This budget contains no frills or buffers and it is the bare minimum that is necessary to successfully carry out the mandates assigned to this Authority," he said. "It is a spending request that compels us to focus on essential priorities and make the difficult choices that will bring the greatest rewards to the territory."
The EDA's FY 2015 budget request of $4.9 million represents a reduction of $18,260 compared to the amount appropriated by the Legislature in FY 2014.
All committee members were present. Non committee members Senators Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Millin Young and Tregenza A. Roach were also present.
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