83.9 F
Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, December 7, 2023


The V.I. government must begin downsizing through meaningful attrition and a stringent hiring freeze or it will collapse.
That was the message Wednesday from Rudolph Krigger, the governor's assistant on financial affairs, to the Senate Finance Committee.
If tough measures aren't implemented, it "will lead not only to the collapse of the Virgin Islands government but to the demise of the territory," the Independent quoted Krigger as saying.
Krigger said the government will have serious problems meeting payroll in June, July and August, and Ira Mills, acting director of Management and Budget, said the
government's financial obligations might soon exceed its revenue flow.
Mills said for fiscal year 1999 he has budgeted revenues of $448 million and expenses of $493 million, leaving a gap of $41.9 million.
He said the plan is to spend only on top priority items and to reduce allotments for all branches and agencies. This will be implemented by April, Mills said.
Revenues have been budgeted upwards, he said, because of the sale of unpaid
property taxes that is now being bid out.
Bernice Turnbull, acting director of the Internal Revenue Bureau, said the government now owes $71.7 million in income tax refunds — $47.5 million for 1998, $15.5 million for 1997 and $8.7 million for 1996 and prior years — plus at least $48.7 million to vendors for 1998 and 1999.
"The governor wants equity among vendors," she said in the Independent report. "Payments will be made based on aging. However, we have to recognize there are priorities and some payments that have to be made."
Turnbull said the government doesn't have enough money to set aside 10 percent of IRB collections for tax refunds, as the law requires, but is setting aside 4.5 percent.
Wednesday's hearing, called by committee Chairwoman Lorraine Berry, lasted more than 10 hours with testimony provided by key members of the Turnbull administration.
Krigger said the administration will use a report commissioned by the Schneider administration from Consultants for Resources Evaluation in Washington, D.C., to augment the five-year plan the Turnbull administration is developing.
The CORE report is being developed with a $600,000 grant from the Interior Department. In a meeting between Interior Secretary Bruce
Babbitt and Gov. Charles W. Turnbull in January, Babbitt said the Virgin Islands had 30 days to come up with a comprehensive plan.
Krigger said Wednesday a draft of the plan should be completed by Feb. 24.
He indicated that if the federal government is going to provide further financial assistance to the Virgin Islands, the territory must show that it is working to revive its economy.
Krigger said the government is looking at any and all proposals to solve its fiscal problems, even the partial sale of WAPA that Turnbull previously opposed.
"Just because he [Turnbull] took a position previously does not mean he cannot take a contrary position," Krigger said.
Krigger said the government's first belt-tightening measures include curbing use of government vehicles and cellular phones. The "strict" hiring freeze will begin April 1, the Independent reported.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Keeping our community informed is our top priority.
If you have a news tip to share, please call or text us at 340-228-8784.

Support local + independent journalism in the U.S. Virgin Islands

Unlike many news organizations, we haven't put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as accessible as we can. Our independent journalism costs time, money and hard work to keep you informed, but we do it because we believe that it matters. We know that informed communities are empowered ones. If you appreciate our reporting and want to help make our future more secure, please consider donating.