Home Commentary Open forum THE FY 2004 BUDGET PROCESS



Dear Source,
We have owned property on St. John since 1980, and were planning to build next year, but are rethinking the issue due to the current fiscal crisis in the U.S. Virgin Islands and, of course, that user fee (which is poorly thought out and hopefully will be revoked).
But I am quite concerned from reading (mostly the St. John Source – great coverage, everyone) the various government departments' 2004 budget requests before the V.I. Senate finance committee. Most departments are requesting the same budget as they received in FY 2003. If the government will have a $152 million deficit for 2003, then mostly likely the same will occur again for 2004. It is very disconcerting that the officials do not seem to be making a serious effort to obtain a balanced budget for 2004.
There is also not enough emphasis placed on creating private-sector jobs. In my opinion, both issues go hand in hand and need to be addressed to prevent social unrest.
As a side note, neither the V.I. government nor the V.I. legislative Web site has the FY 2002 or FY 2003 budgets posted. The FY 2002 budget has a link, but for some reason it does not work. Fortunately the FY 2001 budget is posted on those Web sites, and it is revealing to compare the requests made last Thursday before the finance committee by the Finance Department and the Health Department.
Finance Department FY 2001 request $7.8 million
FY 2004 request $10.2 million
Net Increase $ 2.4 million (+30.7 percent)
Health Department FY 2001 request $28.7 million
FY 2004 request $56.8 million
Net Increase $28.1 million (+97.9 percent)
I do not think it is too much to ask that the Finance Department, whose budget has increased more than 30 percent in three years, post on their Web site current monthly government revenues and the FY budgets. (Why is January 2002 the last web posted monthly revenue figure?) It would probably give a clearer perspective of the fiscal crisis to Virgin Islanders, since I wonder if the government revenues in 2004 will be significantly higher than in 2001.
Although Gov. Charles W. Turnbull is to be commended for recently saying, "We in the Virgin Islands can solve our own problems, just like people elsewhere solve their own problems," he could put this into practice by being transparent with financial information.
R. Callahan
Tampa, Fla.

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