Senators ask OMB why it’s hard to hire

Jenifer C. O’Neal, director of the Office of Management and Budget, presented the finance committee with a budget request for $52.9 million for 2023 on Friday. She said $8.4 million is intended to fund OMB operations and that the remaining $44.5 million is budgeted for various purposes, including salary adjustments and appropriations for not-for-profit entities.

She pointed in her testimony to OMB’s efforts to advise government agencies “to improve operations.”

Senator Samuel Carrión left, asked Director O’Neal about when the Department of Education might be released from the third-party fiduciary agent. (Screenshot from Facebook Livestream)

Senator Donna Frett-Gregory asked if this is happening as agencies continue to struggle to fill vacancies. She said: ‘There appears to be an overall and persistent problem with departments and agencies filling their vacancies at 50% funded.’

Senator Marvin Blyden echoed his concerns, saying the problem had been frustrating for years. He says he met young people. “They want a job. They have a degree. They want to work for the government. But they cannot enter.

Senator Janelle Sarauw said she knows of residents promised jobs with the Department of Social Services in October who have still not been able to get on board.

O’Neal said there would be a meeting at the end of this month with agency heads to discuss issues such as filling vacancies. Sen. Kurt Vialet said a meeting isn’t necessary to hire someone for a position that’s already funded, and “someone just needs to do their job.”

Senator Novelle E. Francis was complimentary about OMB’s establishment of an office in St. Croix and its efforts to integrate youth into government. In his testimony, O’Neal said two employees will be occupying the Estate Diamond office in St. Croix next week. She added that there is enough space there for 10 people as OMB intends to expand its activities in Sainte-Croix.

When it comes to young employees, O’Neal said one of his most satisfying accomplishments was his participation in the GVI financial scholarship program this year. Three gentlemen, recent college graduates who recently completed a stint at OMB, were introduced at the hearing. O’Neal said the three assigned to OMB for their first rotation learned to be budget analysts, revenue analysts and grants analysts, managing budgets like any other staff member. The second wave of scholarships is expected to begin in October.

The senses. Samuel Carrión and Javan James focused their questions on the third-party fiduciary agent overseeing the Department of Education and the Department of Social Services. This agent’s contract costs the territory more than $2 million each year. O’Neal said progress is being made and she is confident the term, which is approaching its 20th year, could be lifted in the not-too-distant future.

The proposed budget would fund 59 full-time positions, including 22 new and vacant positions, 19 of which are unclassified/exempt and three classified/non-unionized positions. Currently, the department has 26 unclassified/exempt positions and 11 classified/non-unionized positions.

According to a press release from the Legislative Assembly, the General Fund request to fund the Department’s day-to-day operations for 2023 is $6.3 million, a decrease of 36% from the 2022 appropriation of the Department. $9.8 million.

The senators present at today’s hearing were Kurt Vialet, Donna Frett-Gregory, Marvin Blyden, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Kenneth Gittens, Javan James, Carla J. Joseph and Janelle Sarauw.

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