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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Forensic sciences director stresses talent retention in budget request

Institute of Forensic Sciences Executive Director Dr. María Conte Miller

By The Star Staff

Institute of Forensic Sciences (ICF by its Spanish initials) Executive Director Dr. María S. Conte Miller appeared before the Finance and Budget Committee in the island House of Representatives on Wednesday to defend the institute’s request for a budget of $25 million for the new fiscal year 2023-2024, which begins July 1.

The ICF budget request represents a difference of $6 million over the item recommended by the Financial Oversight and Management Board for the entity.

“Although our budget request exceeds the items recommended by the Board, we are in open communication and collaboration to join forces and seek alternatives,” Conte Miller said.

Conte Miller’s presentation highlighted that although the ICF has received the oversight board’s attention, “the salary adjustment that has been implemented is still below the expectation of wage justice.”

At the same time, however, Conte Miller acknowledged that the oversight board’s items, which allowed an adjustment of $650 per month to scientific personnel, “has been very positive for retaining talent by observing that resignations have decreased and stability is maintained in the ICF workforce.”

The ICF reported that the request for $25 million is distributed as follows: $16,102,000 for payroll and related costs; $4,723,000 for operating expenses; $1,823,000 for utility payments; and $2,380,000 for Pay-As-You-Go (retirement system).

The primary responsibility of the ICF lies in the need to retain a specialized workforce. Compared to last fiscal year, the ICF requested an increase of $3.8 million “for compliance with the objective of providing fair compensation to our professionals to promote job stability and the retention of the best talent, stopping the exodus that affects us so much and that bleeds the treasury to have spent resources in training, and training to deliver them to other jurisdictions of the United States,” Conte Miller said.

“As part of the goal of retaining our talent, we plan to continue recruiting 25 additional front office positions at a cost of $1,113,196.20 in marginal salaries and benefits,” she said.

The human capital to be recruited is: three forensic pathologists, three chemists, two laboratory technicians, 10 forensic investigators, five autopsy room assistants and two evidence control and custody technicians.

In defense of the budget increase, Conte Miller insisted that recruiting staff without improving compensation “produces a vicious circle in the face of the reality of the brain drain.”

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