The Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance Monday approved appropriation transfers for the Territorial Emergency Management Agency and Fire and Emergency Medical Services.
Although senators had only minor concerns about the transfers, Sen. Alma Francis Heyliger said she was concerned about the “method” being used to transfer the money.
She said a budget had already been passed and “set in stone” and now seven senators “can get together and move around millions.”
Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, chair of the committee, said that these transfers need only her committee’s approval because a line-item budget was originally approved for the agencies. She added that if a lump sum budget had been approved, the agencies could move the money around any way they saw fit. She also said the transfers were not an increased appropriation and an increased appropriation would need a different process.
Sen. Franklin Johnson was among the senators who questioned the timing of the transfer for VITEMA. The transfer of $100,000 was for the purchase of sandbags. Franklin asked why this was happening as the territory was already “deep in hurricane” season.
Daryl Jaschen, director of VITEMA, told the committee that his agency had on hand sandbags from the 2017 hurricanes but those were beginning to deteriorate. It was estimated that after the approval of the transfer, it would only take a week or two to purchase new sandbags that would cost about $5 apiece.
The committee approved the VITEMA transfer as well as the transfer of funds to Fire Emergency Medical Services.
Kimika Woods, associate director of Budget Operations for the Office of Management and Budget, testified that there were sufficient funds for both transfers.
In amended testimony, she stated that FEMS “has identified a need to reallocate $300,000 from the Other Services and Charges budget category to the Capital Outlay budget category to pay outstanding obligations due to vendors.”
Sens. Marvin Blyden, Angel Bolques Jr., Dwayne DeGraff, Ray Fonseca, Alma Francis Heyliger, Novelle Francis Jr., Donna Frett-Gregory, Franklin Johnson, and Carla Joseph were in attendance at Monday’s hearing.