VIPA Board Reviews Budget for FY 2020

Port Authority board members and staff view presentation on the agency’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Tuesday. (Source photo by Judi Shimel)
Port Authority board members and staff view presentation on the agency’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Tuesday. (Source photo by Judi Shimel)

Members of the Port Authority Governing Board were given an overview of the agency’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget on Tuesday when they convened a special meeting to complete the agenda of the regular, monthly meeting held July 23.

Among the budget highlights were anticipated revenue increases from aviation and marine operations. According to VIPA’s Executive Director Carlton Dowe, those revenue increases are expected to come from new fees at the territory’s airports, new leases for concessionaires, and a possible lease agreement with the Water and Power Authority.

VIPA Chief Financial Officer Anna Penn laid out the goals and priorities to be served by the spending plan that takes effect Oct. 1, if approved by the 33rd Legislature. In FY 2020, the Port Authority will focus on generating new revenues, continuing repair and upgrades of air and marine facilities; filling vacancies through hiring and introducing adaptive technologies, Penn said.

After the special meeting concluded Monife Braithwaite, spokeswoman for the Port Authority, said the size of the budget has not been determined yet. But as a semi-autonomous agency, the Port Authority is also expected to generate revenue to cover large portions of its budget. Penn said in FY 2020 She expects the agency to bring in $30.4 million through marine operations and $32.4 million on the aviation side. Projected expenses for marine operations are pegged at $25.5 million; $30.2 for aviation.

Salaries for Port Authority staff and management are projected at $14.9 million in the spending year to come.

Speculation about revenue enhancements got some pushback from board member and Public Works Commissioner Nelson Petty.

Dowe offered some specifics. New revenues are expected to come from new fees on suppliers pumping fuel for aircraft, he said. Inactive concession spaces will be offered to new vendors and passenger facility charges are set to take effect, Dowe said.

“With the addition of more flights coming in, impact on landing fees, impact on passenger facility charges, the new contract we’re doing with Total – in particular – private jet handlers and so forth, what we’re expecting we’ll see a robust year in the private activity with jet services,” the director said.

Petty suggested most of the revenue projections appeared to come from St. Thomas facilities. He urged Dowe to do more to raise revenues on St. Croix.

The director said the agency is looking at refueling operations at Henry Rolshen Airport. He also raised the possibility that Crowley Shipping was planning to move into a new lease agreement on the big island.

VIPA is also in talks with WAPA about leasing land near Rolshen Airport to build an alternative energy installation using solar panels.

After listening to the presentation, board member Yvonne Thraen said she had not heard enough.

“A superficial discussion like this does not really prepare you to understand this budget,” Thraen said.

Board chairman Leona Smith said there would be more time to absorb the details before a formal vote is taken.

“The Aug. 28 meeting; at that time we’ll be ready to approve the budget,” Smith said.

The Port Authority is scheduled to appear Aug. 20 before the Legislature’s Committee on Finance. Some board members suggested they would like to attend a pre-hearing session, in house, to hear officials rehearse and refine what they will say before lawmakers on that day.

The special Tuesday meeting also allowed the board to act on spending measures proposed from the Projects and Operations Committee:
– Environmental assessment of Charlotte Amalie Harbor: $ 95,578.72
– Approval of interior architectural finishes for Rolshen Airport: $ 1.02 million
– Task to complete projects at Rolshen Airport Maintenance Building: $63,514
– Repairs for hurricane damage at the Rolshen Airport Sea Flight Hangar: $14.246
– Roof repair at Tropical Shipping Cargo Building and Supreme Court Building, St. Thomas: $779,969.88
– Assorted tasks related to repairs at the Rolshen Airport Control Tower, Port Authority
– Administrative Building, St. Thomas and the air cargo building at Cyril King Airport: $1.3 million
– Improved security camera system at the Urman Victor Fredericks Marine Terminal, St. Thomas: $91,540