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HomeNewsArchivesGovernor Calls for Executive Belt Tightening; Asks Other Branches to Join In

Governor Calls for Executive Belt Tightening; Asks Other Branches to Join In

May 7, 2008 — Gov. John deJongh Jr. has implemented an executive branch hiring freeze and changed allotment schedules and amounts to accommodate the $50 million budget shortfall, which stems from recent legislative revisions to his property tax bill.
The governor has asked the other branches of the government to join him. The belt-tightening measures will "ensure that necessary funds can be maintained for government services through the end of the current fiscal year," he said. The freeze applies to both exempt and classified positions.
DeJongh spared positions considered necessary to the well-being or safety of the community, including social workers; medical social workers; officers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains in the police department; registered nurses; teachers certified as "highly qualified" under applicable statutory definitions; all positions within the Corrections Bureau; and all federally funded positions. Any exemptions, other than those, will need to have the blessing of Personnel Director Kenneth L. Hermon Jr.
Additionally, no salary increases — other than previously negotiated salary adjustments — will be disbursed during the freeze.
Allotments will be given monthly instead of quarterly, which helps control spending, explained Debra Gottleib, director of the Office of Management and Budget, in a recent interview. They will also be reduced by two percent, deJongh said in a prepared statement. Non-critical allotments will be reduced or even withheld, according to a statement released Wednesday by Government House.
The actions were taken upon the advice of OMB and Personnel.
"Current revenue projections reflect both economic conditions and the actions taken by the 27th Legislature since it passed the current year's budget," the statement read. "When this year's budget was submitted to the Legislature, it was balanced by revenue projections that included $123 million in real property-tax collections."
But, deJongh said, "Our original tax bill filed with the Legislature was significantly modified by the Senate and, when finally implemented, the Senate version of the tax bill results in substantially lower collections, creating a shortfall of nearly $50 million."
The governor asked that the two other branches of government adopt the executive branch fiscal strategy, sending letters to Senate President Usie Richards, Presiding Judge Darryl Donohue of the V.I. Superior Court and Chief Justice Rhys Hodge of the V.I. Supreme Court.
"Your voluntary compliance with a two-percent reduction to the judicial and legislative allotment, in the spirit of cooperation, to help manage the territory's FY 2008 fiscal situation will be greatly appreciated," deJongh wrote.
He will continue to "take all necessary actions required to keep the government operating through this time of financial distress," deJongh said.
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