Sept. 27, 2005A mistake made by senators Friday has cost the Waste Management Authority $5.3 million in operating funds for 2006, according to May Adams Cornwall, the Authority's executive director.
In a written statement circulated through the Legislature Monday, Cornwall explained senators had inadvertently cut the WMA's budget from $26.4 million to $21.2 by incorrectly looking at the governor's executive budget recommendation.
Cornwall said the WMA had initially requested an appropriation of $32.2 million, but Gov. Charles W. Turnbull cut the figure to $26.4 million. This amounted to $21.2 million coming from the general fund, and $5.3 million coming from other special funds.
However, during the Rules and Judiciary Committee meeting Friday, senators believed the $21.2 million was Turnbull's entire recommended budget for the WMA. Subsequently, they voted to cut that amount to $16.2 million and used the $5.2 million in special funds to bring the overall budget figure back up to $21.2 million.
"The WMA's recommended budget is $21.2 million for fiscal year 2006," Sen. Usie R. Richards said at the Rules session. "Even if we cut that figure to $16.1 million, they will still get the other $5.3 million from three other appropriations."
Richards said these are:
–a transfer of $2.8 million from the Anti-Litter and Beautification Fund to the WMA.
–a transfer of $1.2 million from the Sewer Waste Water Fund to the WMA.
–a transfer of $1.7 million from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund to the WMA.
Cornwall's letter said, "The basis upon which the amendment to reduce the Waste Management Authority's budget by approximately $5 million was offered and approved is fatally flawed and hopelessly devastating," Cornwall wrote. "Contrary to the justification provided by the amendment's sponsor, the governor's budget recommendation was $26.4 million."
Cornwall added Turnbull's recommended ceiling from the general fund was $21.2 million, separate and apart from the $5.3 million requested in special funds. Therefore, Turnbull's initial cut, coupled with the Senate's cut, will render a shortfall of approximately $10 million to the WMA.
Consequently, Cornwall asked the full Senate body to reconsider the WMA budget and restore the $5.3 million so the overall budget figure reflects Turnbull's $26.4 million recommendation.
The written statement also described how the cut would negatively impact the operations of the WMA. In addition to jeopardizing 55 permanent WMA employees, the decrease will result in:
–a reduction of the Authority's ability to fill essential vacancies in wastewater operations and management, solid waste collection, and landfill operations.
–a reduction in contractual services for the wastewater operations and management, solid waste collection, and landfill operations.
–adverse impacts to public health, the environment, and the local economy.
–fines and penalties associated with violations of the Environmental Protection Agency's consent decree with the WMA.
–loss of federal funds to the Port Authority for failure to meet certain mandates of the Federal Aviation Association.
–a potential loss of federal financial assistance for the environmental infrastructure.
Cornwall added the combined impact of less staff and contractual services will also yield sewage overflows onto the streets and beaches, a deterioration of solid waste collection services, and landfills which continue to operate out of compliance with federal mandates.
Because of this, Cornwall also stated the WMA will be able to function no better than its predecessor, the Department of Public Works, in addressing waste issues across the territory.
In addition, Cornwall wrote she is simultaneously asking senators to approve an appropriation sent down by Turnbull Friday for an extra $2 million for the WMA. The money for this will come from a 'new found' $60 million in unanticipated revenues recently realized by the government (See " Turnbull Has Plans to Spend 'Found Money'").
Phone calls made to senators Tuesday regarding the matter were not returned by publication time.
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