More than 80 U.S. Virgin Islands capital improvement projects, for which funding has already been identified and budgets set, have not been started.
Capital improvement projects are largely funded through prior years’ gross receipts tax revenue bonds and mutual fund bonds. At Wednesday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, senators expressed dismay that nearly half of the projects remain entirely ignored.
“What is the difficulty and the delay in moving capital projects?” Sen. Janelle Sarauw asked, referring to projects not tied to Federal Emergency Management Agency funding.
“We can’t sit in the budget hearing here and say we have no money when you have 81 capital projects with zero expended. That means zero corporate income tax, that means zero individual income tax, that means zero gross receipt taxes. That’s the math,” Sarauw said.
V.I. Public Finance Authority Executive Director Kirk Callwood said the PFA reaches out quarterly to ask applicable agencies about the status of projects, but compliance lies at the agency level.
Sen. Kurt Vialet said he understood it is up to the agencies who receive the funds to expend them, but said commissioners of each agency need to be spoken with to find out why projects have not moved forward.
Speaking to Callwood, Sarauw said, “You have to go back to the governor, and you have to sit in your financial meeting … and say listen, we have a problem. Don’t send a budget down here saying we don’t have money when you cannot move capital projects.”
There are several capital projects from the Public Finance Authority Capital Projects Report that have been budgeted for years and still have not been started. Some of them, like a territory-wide camera system, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. said has been budgeted for over six years.
Projects that have been sitting are:
– Territorial-wide camera installation for VIPD
– Maintenance of public cemeteries
– SRMC emergency infrastructure repairs and replacements
– Virgin Islands Port Authority allocation for Schooner Bay channel dredging
– Generator purchase and installation for the Golden Grove Correctional Facility
– Office building for Virgin Islands State Historic Preservation Office
– Department of Public Works allocation for Mahogany Road – Route 75
– Department of Public Works allocation for Hams Bluff Road – Route 63
– Department of Public Works allocation for Rattan Road Route 74
– Department of Public Works allocation for Prince Street, Queen Frederiksted, Route 7029, 7027, 7025, 7023, 702
– Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation allocation for Honeymoon Beach Facility, Water Island
– Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation allocation for Cruz Bay Recreational Center
– Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation allocation for Honeymoon Beach Pavilion and Related Facilities, Water Island
– Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation allocation Oppenheimer Beach Facility
– Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation allocation Estate Profit Concession Center
– Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation allocation Recreational Facility in Estate Calquohoun
– Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation allocation Frederiksted Parks
– Passport acceptance facility
In addition to the projects that have been on the budget for years, 64 projects have allocated funds to the Department of Education for needed school repairs and maintenance. To date, only two of the 64 projects have seen any money expended. Of the more than $5 million budgeted less than $39,000 has been put to any use.
Within the Executive Budget for Fiscal Year 2021, Bryan said his administration is finally prepared to expend the over $310 million approved for varying projects, including the finalization of the Paul E. Joseph Stadium.
“In total, the territory has over $5.6 billion available in federal grant and recovery funds to expend, and my administration is committed to ensuring that as many projects as possible are started, if not completed, within fiscal year 2021 to help to offset the projected revenue losses [resulting from the pandemic],” Bryan said.
All committee members – Sens. Sarauw, Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Oakland Benta, Allison DeGazon, Dwayne DeGraff and Donna Frett-Gregory – were present for Wednesday’s finance hearing.