With the release of Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s first annual budget, it appears most, but not all, government agencies will see a slight decrease in their funding in the upcoming year. [2016 Executive Budget]
Mapp submitted the budget to the V.I. Legislature and released some summary information to the public on Friday. (See related Links below.) Government House released the full budget document over the weekend.
The General Fund operating budget for Fiscal Year 2016 is $702.8 million, a $6.7 million, or less than 1 percent, reduction from the $709.5 million submitted by Gov. John deJongh Jr. a year ago and $41 million less than the actual FY15 appropriation level of $743.8 million. And it is $10 million less than the current fiscal year projected allotment level of $712.8 million — the amount the government projects to actually spend.
Budget Director Nellon Bowry said in the budget’s introduction that government debt has been adding up for at least the last 20 years, with a sharp ballooning after the 2008 recession and the closure of the Hovensa refinery in 2012. The highest deficit to date was $577.6 million in Fiscal Year 2010, and deficits from 2008 through 2013 averaged almost $300 million, Bowry said.
"The root causes of this structural imbalance have not been proactively addressed. Rather the annual shortfalls have been financed by ad hoc combinations of inter-fund transfers and by formal and informal debt," Bowry said. The total long-term debt has increased to $2.7 billion, he said.
The FY16 budget has a $98 million shortfall, which the Mapp administration hopes to make up through debt refinancing, a "focused tax collection campaign and by working to get federal funds released.”
Locally generated funds in the government’s General Fund pay most central agency expenses.
The budget calls for $229.4 million for wages and salaries, down by $14.4 million from FY15, and down $23 million from FY14. Social security, pensions and other benefits come to $106.4 million, up $8 million. Supplies for all agencies come in at $10 million for FY16 – down by $2 million. Utilities are budgeted at $26.7 million – up by nearly $3 million. Capital outlays are up by half a million dollars at $2.9 million.
The miscellaneous budget category totals $161.5 million, up by $9 million from the year before. It includes $20 million for the Legislature; $25.7 million for V.I. Superior Court; $5.7 million for the V.I. Supreme Court; $29.6 million for the University of the Virgin Islands; $21.6 million for the V.I. Waste Management Authority; $22.5 million for the Schneider Regional Medical Center; $20.1 million for the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital; $1.3 million for the Board of Education, with nearly all of that for scholarships; $2 million for the V.I. Inspector General’s Office; and $3.9 million for Public Television WTJX.
The Department of Education, by far the largest department with the largest budget, has proposed 2016 General Fund funding of $154.5 million, down from $159.5 million in FY15.
Human Services, which has seen a large increase in clients since the recession, and which saw increases in recent years, is budgeted at $59.3 million – down from $62.3 million for FY15.
The V.I. Police Department has a proposed 2014 General Fund budget of $59.2 million – an increase of $1.6 million.
The Bureau of Correction’s recommended appropriation is $29.9 million, up more than a million from last year.
Health is looking at $19.9 million, down slightly from $20 million in FY15.
Along with local government funding from the General Fund, the government anticipates $154.2 million from an array of special purpose funds with their own directed revenues. Of that, more than half is debt service. The government also anticipates $211 million in "non-appropriated funds," of which $138 million is the fees generated by the territory’s hospitals, and the rest is comprised of fees generated by various government agencies. Revenues from all sources are projected to total about $1.27 billion, according to the budget document.