Bosede Bruce, Commissioner of the Department of Finance, brought more than his budget request to the Finance Committee on Friday. She announced that the Department of Finance had sent $12.5 million in tax refund checks that day and would send another $12.5 million before the end of the month. She said she couldn’t be sure, but she said those mailings could update tax refunds to 2019 returns and at least some of the 2020 refunds.
On June 5, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. announced that refunds were coming. He said when he took office, tax refunds were due from 2016.
In other good news, Bruce announced that for the first time his department was producing electronic W2s and saving $25,000 in paper, postage, ink and overhead. She said it was a timely solution, as supply chain issues could have delayed W2 forms.
He was asked if his department could start filing tax returns electronically. She replied that the Department of Finance already does this, but it could only be done for residents who gave their bank details to the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
Regarding the day-to-day operations of the department, Bruce said, “We have six accounts payable analysts who process approximately 267,000 invoices per year for thirty-seven agencies. She described the review process as “ensuring that all invoices are fully supported, coded and properly authorized for payment.”
Senator Carla Joseph commended the staff working in Accounts Payable. She called them “brilliant” and that their job of keeping supplier payments up to date was a “herculean task”.
Senator Kenneth Gittens also praised Bruce, who is new to government and has only been on the job for a year. He said, “Thank you for bringing us into the 21st century.”
Bruce testified that the Department currently consists of a team of 48 full-time employees, 36 in St. Thomas and 12 in St. Croix.
Its budget request was for $22 million, of which $21 million would come from the General Fund. The proposal for the coming year would fund 56 positions, 45 in St. Thomas and 11 in St. Croix.
Senators present at the hearing were Kurt Vialet, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Marvin Blyden, Janelle Sarauw, Javan James, Carla Joseph, Kenneth Gittens, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis and Samuel Carrion.