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Hospitals Make Budget Requests Above and Beyond Governor’s Recommendation

July 18, 2007 — During separate Senate budget hearings in Frederiksted Wednesday, Roy L. Schneider and Juan F. Luis hospitals both defended General Fund budget requests roughly $10 million higher than the governor’s budget recommendation.
In both cases, unfunded capital improvements were the reason given for the increased funding requests.
“Our budget request for fiscal year 2008 is $38.6 million,” said Schneider Chief Executive Officer Rodney E. Miller. “But the proposed executive budget for Schneider Regional is $28.9 million, which is $9.7 million less than requested.”
Miller said the additional funding would be used for improvements to Schneider’s maternity ward, admittance and emergency-room areas and the outpatient-surgery area.
The total proposed budget for Schneider includes $48 million in other local funds, such as patient fees. Its total projected local funding budget for the upcoming year is $77 million. If the Legislature approves the additional funding request, that would bring the grand total to $87.5 million.
Gov. John deJongh Jr.’s recommended General Fund budget appropriation for Juan F. Luis Hospital is $25 million, all of which is allocated for payroll and benefits. The budget projects that Juan F. Luis will also generate $30 million from fees and other sources, for a total budget of $55 million.
Calliste requested $26.2 million for payroll and benefits. He also asked for $4 million to assist with outstanding V.I. Water and Power Authority bills and $5 million to finish the hospital’s V.I. Cardiac Center. Finally, he asked for $6.4 million for a variety of needs, including $1 million for nurses, $1 million for information-systems upgrades, $1 million to upgrade radiology equipment and several hundred thousand each for elevator repairs and other, smaller renovations.
“I feel the goalposts keep moving with this cardiac center,” Sen. Neville James said. “When we appropriated $5 million for the cardiac center last year, weren’t we told that would complete it?”
“At that point in time, we were talking about construction of the building,” Calliste replied. “We have the funds for construction, but we still need to purchase equipment and set up the building to function as a cardiac center.”
“The administration speaks like they are broke, but they have money,” James said. “The majority makes the budget, but if I talk to the governor and if we give you another $5 million, can you assure me you are not going to come back for another dime?”
Calliste said yes.
Sen. Carlton Dowe questioned why neither hospital had included capital improvements in their original budget requests.
“You have a whole host of improvements and project of which none have been budgeted for,” Dowe said to Calliste. “It is the same at Schneider. There is no capital-improvement budget. Clearly we must go to the bond market at some point, and I believe sooner rather than later.”
Wednesday’s budget hearings were preliminary. Both hospitals’ budgets will be reviewed and marked up in upcoming legislative budget hearings prior to the passage of the final, omnibus general appropriations budget bill.
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