July 19, 2004 – The V.I. Public Television system and the V.I. Lottery Commission presented their fiscal year 2005 budget information to the Senate Finance Committee on Monday.
V.I. Public Television
Osbert Potter, general manager of WTJX-TV, the territory's Public Broadcasting System affiliate, told the committee that the station need $8.7 million for FY 2005, with $4.2 million of that to go for capital outlays.
"We cannot operate a television station on a shoestring budget," Sonia Williams, chair of the WTJX board of directors, said.
The public broadcasting station began operating in the territory 32 years ago, made possible by an act of the 13th Legislature. The station has brought the territory's families "quality" PBS programming such as "Sesame Street" and "Barney and Friends" for years, Williams said.
WTJX also is responsible for bringing viewers local programming including coverage of each island's carnival and festival parades, the "STARfest" talent revue and shows such as "Topics" and "Graffiti Street."
"WTJX is a valuable asset to the territory," Williams said.
Potter said WTJX is planning to implement new local programs including "Ex-Factor," which is to begin in October.
(Plans for another program, "What It Takes," a spinoff from the STARfest revues to be produced by the Reichhold Center for the Arts in conjunction with WTJX, are on hold, however, because one thing it definitely takes, money, is not available at present. See "Lack of Funds Puts TV Talent 'Reality' Show on Hold".)
Staff of the V.I. Lottery, which does not receive appropriations from the General Fund, presented its FY 2005 budget overview to the committee, projecting revenues of about $19 million. The budget presented on Monday calls for expending $13.2 million for payouts to vendors and for putting into the General Fund, and $3.6 million for operating costs. That would leave the V.I. Lottery with a projected net profit of about $2.5 million.
V.I. Lottery revenues come from local lottery ticket sales, V.I. Powerball and video lottery terminal operations.
Paul Flemming, V.I. Lottery executive director, told the committee that so far, starting from last August, $752,809 has been received from VLTs.
Robert E. Huckabee III, president of Southland Gaming, the territory's video lottery distributor, had said in April of last year that the VLTs would bring in about $15 million a year.
"The $15 million could not be realized," Flemming said, because the machines were not implemented in a timely manner and because some of the potentially more "lucrative sites" were not available.
In response to questioning by the committee chair, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, Flemming said that two individuals are currently receiving major prize payments in installments. The combined balance on what is owed them is $1.1 million, he said.
Flemming said paying in installments is "not a new thing." Other jurisdictions such as New Jersey pay in installments.
Ticket sales have been increasing, Flemming told the committee members. For the last two drawings, about 1,600 and 1,700 tickets were sold, respectively, he said. V.I. Lottery is planning to televise drawings in October, he said.
"There is hope for the V.I. Lottery yet," Flemming said.
Office of Veterans Affairs
The Office of Veterans Affairs was scheduled to present its budget before the committee Monday afternoon; however, no one from the agency appeared to testify.
Committee members present for the meeting were Sens. Roosevelt David, Donastorg, Shawn-Michael Malone and Luther Renee. Sens. Louis Hill, Norman Jn Baptiste and Ronald Russell were not present.
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