Government’s budget priorities for the year ahead include increased funding for schools, modest pay raises for civil servants, and more money for the country’s financial regulator and for public health to fight diseases such as the Zika virus.
Members of the Legislative Assembly are currently debating the budget, working their way line by line through the expenses for the core government, government-owned companies and statutory authorities.
The 2016-2017 Cayman Islands government budget will cover 18 months, realigning the budget cycle, from July through June, to follow the calendar year.
In that year and a half, central government plans to spend $862.4 million, which amounts to a 3.7 percent increase from 2015-16 once it is broken down to compare year to year.
Despite the spending increase, the Finance Ministry expects government will have a surplus of more than $45 million by the end of 2017.
The budget is a sprawling document, spread across four budget books and more than 2,500 pages.
The numbers in this story and the graphics are tallied from across ministries.
John Gray High School
Government plans to spend $7.9 million to continue development of the new John Gray High School. The project, started in 2008, has been stalled in recent years because government said it did not have the money to continue construction.
Solid waste management system
The Ministry of Home Affairs, Health and Culture set aside $6.5 million for the new solid waste management plan. The money is to buy land for a new waste management system, though the budget does not specifically say which land.
The budget includes $1.5 million for a new household waste recycling center, part of government’s solid waste management plan to divert recyclables, like cans and bottles, away from the landfill.
George Town revitalization
Almost $7 million will go to the George Town revitalization project, including roadwork, beautification and modernization projects. The key part of the central George Town revitalization is the proposed cruise pier.
Mental health facility
The Ministry of Health set aside $2.5 million for the development of a long-term residential facility to treat mental health patients.
A mental health facility has been in the works for years and with the recent completion of the business case for the new facility, the project is getting closer to construction.
The budget for the next 18 months includes $500,000 for the development of a pier for cruise ships on the George Town waterfront.
Needs Assessment Unit
The government has budgeted more than $3.8 million for the Needs Assessment Unit.
The money is to be used to assess clients for government housing, healthcare, permanent poor relief or temporary assistance. Government plans to spend $11.7 million on poor relief payments and vouchers.
Government plans to spend at least $4.3 million on housing programs, including mortgage guarantees and to support affordable housing on Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands.
The biggest budget item is more than $2.9 million to provide rental payments to people who cannot afford housing.
The Health Services Authority includes almost $22 million for people who do not have insurance or cannot afford to pay for healthcare. The biggest line item in the HSA budget is about $16.5 million for indigent care.
The budget also includes more than $2.2 million for uninsured and underinsured children, almost $800,000 to care for uninsured and underinsured pregnant women before and after they give birth, and almost $2.5 million to provide care for the elderly and people with chronic ailments such as diabetes.
Those funds do not cover the more than $90 million in bad debts owed to the HSA. By the end of 2017, government estimates the bad debts will climb to more than $108 million.
Government plans to spend more than $13 million on ex-gratia payments to more than 1,000 retired seamen, veterans and their widows. The other major expense, to CINICO, will be almost $11.2 million for health insurance for retired seamen and veterans.
Care for elderly and disabled
The budget sets aside more than $5.7 million to care for adults with disabilities and the elderly who cannot afford to care for themselves.
Government plans to give more than $34 million to nongovernmental organizations for social, religious, recreational and other purposes. This spending includes Meals on Wheels, Cayman’s many sports clubs and associations, and organizations such as the Red Cross.
Big ticket items
Education is one of the government’s biggest expenses, encompassing more than $150 million. The budget for education includes almost $30.4 million for primary schools and $32.8 million for high schools. The University College of the Cayman Islands is allotted more than $6.3 million.
Civil service pensions
Government will pay more than $18 million to the Public Service Pensions Board to help catch up on payments to the main civil service pension fund.
The defined-benefits pension plan has fallen behind in recent years, and government is adding money to help make sure there is enough in the fund to cover retirement costs for civil service pensioners. The additional money will not completely fill the gap, estimated to be at least $166 million over the next two decades.
Government plans to give Cayman Airways almost $24.7 million for operating domestic and international flights, a modest decrease compared to the year before. The budget also includes $7.7 million to help the airline pay off its debts.
Health insurance for civil service retirees
Government has budgeted more than $31.8 million for the Cayman Islands National Insurance Company for health insurance for civil service retirees.
The National Roads Authority plans to spend more than $15 million for road maintenance and other, bigger projects planned for the year ahead.
The Home Affairs Ministry has set aside $1 million to protect government computers from hackers. The money will be used to enhance cybersecurity in the public IT infrastructure, according to Finance Minister Marco Archer.