Licensing and Consumer Affairs’ online licensing process is streamlining, simplifying, and speeding up business license approval and renewal for businesses and DLCA, which is seeing growing numbers of new business licenses the last few years, according to Commissioner Wayne Biggs during budget hearings Tuesday.
The online licensing system at its website, http://dlca.vi.gov, lets people both apply and renew online. And the system allows for electronic approval from the V.I. Police Department, the Internal Revenue Bureau, Fire Services and the Department of Health.
"This removes the necessity of clients visiting each agency individually and filling out multiple forms to apply for various approvals," Biggs told the Finance Committee.
Sen. Donald Cole asked, "How is paying taxes verified in the system?"
"When you hit the button that says ‘Renew,’ information is automatically generated for IRB," Biggs said, adding that the IRB automatically sends it back with electronic approval or denial. If it is denied at first, one must check into the situation with IRB and, if one owes taxes, work out a payment plan, he said. The department does not get any personal tax information beyond IRB’s approval or denial, Biggs said.
During Fiscal Year 2012, the licensing division issued 12,291 licenses, with 1,635 new licenses, and collected $3.23 million in fees, Biggs testified. In FY13, it issued 13,876 business licenses – 2,936 new – and collected $3.56 million in fees.
So far through the end of the third quarter of FY14, it has issued 11,449 business licenses, with 2,137 of them new, and it has collected $2.57 million in fees.
The DLCA budget request is $3.26 million – a $167,000 decrease from last year. That includes $2.98 million from the General Fund and $280,000 in a special fund appropriation from the revenues generated by DLCA fees.
Of the General Fund allotment, $2.98 million is for wages, salaries, employee taxes and benefits.
The rest is operating expenses, including $330,000 for professional services such as the online licensing system and website. Another $48,000 is for communications; $92,000 for rent for the St. Croix office; and $113,000 for utilities.
Richard Austin, executive director of Legal Services of the Virgin Islands, also presented that small agency’s budget request of $1.3 million from the General Fund. That sum is $200,000 more than the amount in the governor’s executive budget.
Of that, $556,000 is for wages and salaries; $163,000 for Social Security and Medicare taxes and fringe benefits. It has $286,000 in other services and charges, with $98,000 of that for a mortgage on its office and $68,000 for professional services.
The 501c3 private charity better known as LSVI provides free legal services in civil court for clients who cannot afford to hire attorneys themselves. The government must provide attorneys to those who cannot afford one in criminal cases, but not in civil cases such as landlord-tenant disputes and victims of scams. Legal Services fills that gap.
Legal Services is not part of the government, but it receives some government funding so it must appear and defend that funding during the legislative budget process.
This year, LSVI is seeing its federal funding cut, Austin said. In 2013, LSVI’s total budget was originally $1.5 million, with $1 million from the government, $306,000 from the federal Legal Services Corporation and $155,000 from the Law Enforcement Planning Commission. Last year and this year, LSVI expects no LEPC funds at all and half as much federal funding – $152,000 for 2015, he said.
No votes were taken during the information gathering budget hearing.