When the Joint Forces Headquarters building in St. Croix's V.I. National Guard compound is completed, the agency will help ensure the badly damaged adjacent Caspar Holstein Drive gets repaired, V.I. National Guard Adjutant Gen. Renaldo Rivera assured senators during budget hearings Wednesday.
The rough road has a bumpy history, having been paved at least twice in the last decade, but quickly deteriorating each time, due in part to problems with the underlying roadbed. (See related links below.)
Rivera and National Guard officials said the road was improperly constructed from the beginning, leading to its quick deterioration, but the Guard would make sure the section by the armory was repaired. At present, no federal funds have been set aside for the purpose, Guard officials said.
The Office of the Adjutant General, which oversees the V.I. National Guard, was before the Senate in Frederiksted Wednesday to defend its 2013 budget request of $1.5 million, a roughly $125,000 or 7.94 percent decrease from last year's appropriation of $1.6 million, and more than $200,000 less than its 2011 appropriation.
Most of that funding pays the salaries of civilian employees and renovations and upkeep of OTAG buildings and vehicles, while the overwhelming bulk of VING funding comes from federal sources, said Sylma Sablon, director of administration and business management for the Adjutant General’s Office.
Salaries and wages account for $334,000 of the $1.5 million appropriation, with benefits and employer contributions to Medicare and Social Security accounting for another $124,000. Utilities are the largest single category, at $368,000, and capital outlays account for $315,000. Other services and charges are budgeted at $268,000 and supplies another $442,000.
Nearly all comes from the General Fund, with the exception of $53,000 from the miscellaneous section of the budget allocated to the National Guard Pension Fund.
The OTAG will also receive $5.4 million in federal funds for security and other expenses required under a master cooperative agreement between the territorial and federal governments. Of that, $1.1 million goes to pay security, $2.7 million will help support real property operations and maintenance, paying eight entire salaries and 75 percent of the salaries of one more position.
Aside from the OTAG itself, nearly all VING funds – some 99.99 percent - comes from the federal government, according to Rivera.
“The federal government directly pays the salaries of all federal employees and that of the part-time Guard members," he said. “They provide funds for equipment and equipment maintenance. In addition the federal government is the major fund source for new construction and most of the operations of our facilities.”
Federal funding for Fiscal Year 2013 is projected to be roughly $45 million, with $27.6 million for payroll, $7 million for installation support, $6.3 million for operations and training, and $4.1 million for services and supplies, according to figures provided by the OTAG.
In addition to the National Guard functioning 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 hazardous material situations, 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 Chairman Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Sens. Sammuel Sanes, Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly, and Celestino White Jr. Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, who is not a member of the Finance Committee, was present as well. Absent were Sens. Louis Hill, Shawn-Michael Malone and Janette Millin-Young