During the Senate hearing for the Committee on Budget, Appropriations, and Finance Tuesday, the Division of Personnel and the Office of Collective Bargaining shared testimony on their fiscal year 2024 budgets.
According to Personnel Director Cindy Richardson, the division’s fiscal year 2024 budget is “a little over $51.5 million.”
“We anticipate revenues of approximately $45,110 towards the training revolving fund for each fiscal year. The budget recommendation is to fund approximately $50.9 million from the General Fund for each fiscal year. $530,867 each fiscal year will be funded from indirect costs,” said Richardson.
Breaking down the budget, the division is allocating their personnel services budget at approximately $2.8 million, fringe at $1.3 million, supplies at $120,000, other services and charges at $46.6 million (with health insurance for retirees recommended at $38.2 million and the central GVI employer-employee insurance share recommended at $6.8 million), capital outlay at $25,000, utilities at $263,000, and $146,468.10 for professional services.
Ending the 2023 fiscal year, the personnel division added 973 new hires to the government of the Virgin Islands, bringing the total to 6,529 central GVI employees and a total government workforce of 10,618 employees, according to Richardson. Currently, there is one vacancy within the 42 funded positions within the division of personnel; 28 of the 42 positions are in the St. Thomas-St. John district and 14 positions are in the St. Croix district.
Committee chair Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory shared an area of concern for all agencies during the hearing. She mentioned that the miscellaneous budget category is being “rolled-up” into the other services category and posing a “challenge” for the various agencies, inflating their budgets.
“We continue to see it, so we need to figure out how to chew this up,” said Frett-Gregory.
Regarding the personnel division, Frett-Gregory shared her concern relating to the GVI Fellows program. The $55,000 salaries paid annually to each participant, she says, can cause complications with staff morale.
“I don’t have an issue with the 55,000,” said Frett-Gregory. “What I have an issue with is how do we close this gap to ensure we don’t have challenges with the permanent staff working alongside the GVI fellows.”
“I do understand how from a moral perspective, I’ve seen different agencies come before you and discuss the morale, but again it’s [GVI Fellows] just a retention tool,” said Richardson. “Additionally, I would advise those agencies to look at their own employees and look at some internal promotion as well.”
Frett-Gregory alluded that the plan was not well thought out.
“It’s an excellent program,” replied Frett-Gregory. “But we did not think about the impact and truly thought out the end result of this program.”
Regarding recruitment, Sen. Kenneth Gittens inquired about off-island recruitment. In her testimony, Richardson shared that the division is in discussion with RT Park for off-island recruitment campaigns. Gittens asked if previous efforts by the government, such as the 2021 job recruitment fair held in Atlanta, GA was worth the expense as it was a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”
“We don’t have sufficient interest in the territory for these jobs,” asked Gittens. “Is it worth spending that type of money to recruit two or three individuals?”
“It’s geared toward STEM positions and engineering and the science field,” replied Richardson. “I do think we should send individuals. I would not probably send the delegation that was sent prior.”
Regarding the Office of Collective Bargaining’s fiscal year 2024 budget, it is proposed at $1,375,564. Their proposed budget is allocated for personnel services at $740,766, $316,076 for fringe benefits, $192,500 for other services, $68,222 for capital outlay, $45,000 for equipment and supplies, and $13,000 for utilities.