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WICO AND DOT UPDATES COMMITTEE ON THEIR AGENCY’S ACTIVITIES

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ST. CROIX–The Committee on Economic Development, Regulations, and Agriculture chaired by Senator Allison L. DeGazon met on Thursday in the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center to receive status reports from the West Indian Company, Ltd (WICO) and the Department of Tourism (DOT).

Senator DeGazon in her opening statement indicated that she wants to ensure the Committee and the community of the importance of receiving periodic updates from the various government departments which come under their purview and to determine the status and what type of assistance may be needed.

She added that these two entities before the Committee today, play a major role in steering the economic growth of the Territory. According to the Chairwoman, transparency is the word that will rule today. She pointed out that WICO has been known to be a very closed entity and we need to break that perception. She asked the questions: what we are doing to ensure more access to flights and what are we doing to ensure we have a well-attended and successful festival?

In his testimony, Anthony Ottley, Interim President, West Indian Company (WICO) addressed the committee’s three interests by giving an overview of its three revenue streams. He said the first source of income derived from leases of their warehouses, commercial buildings, and other properties.

He pointed out that WICO’s assets also include over seven acres of undeveloped land in Estate Liverpool and Estate Thomas; the Estate Catherineberg residence overlooking downtown Charlotte Amalie and its grounds; upland and submerged land leased to Yacht Haven Grande; and the West Indian Dock.

WICO’s second revenue source, he added, is from the managerial fee from overseeing operations of Havensight Mall’s retail stores, offices, bars and restaurants, and warehouses. According to him, since the acquisition of the Employee’s Retirement System in 1993, the Mall itself continues to be one of the Retirement System’s best performing assets.

WICO’s third and largest revenue source, said Ottley, is the West Indian Company Dock. Accordingly, the berth area has a length of 3,300 feet, comprising of three distinct sections—the main section, the finger section, and the overhang section.

He told the Committee that over the past 20 years, the WICO Dock has undergone extensive lengthening and strengthening. Furthermore, these upgrades were in direct response to the increase in the size of ships as they came online over the past two decades.

One of their biggest challenges today, said Ottley, is accommodating the larger ships since they are unable to further extend the dock. Additionally, lengthening is not possible as it would exceed the 3,300 feet footprint and breach the main channel boundary.

According to WICO’s Interim President, additional berths in the Territory will maximize their ability to receive at least two more mega ships, restore their status in the cruise tourism industry and contribute desperately needed funds to the Virgin Islands economy. In addition, increasing port capacity will allow them to increase their revenue and help address their outstanding payment in lieu of taxes to the government.

Meanwhile, in her testimony to the Committee, Elizabeth Hansen Watley, Assistant Commissioner, DOT said, their marketing strategy is founded on three pillars—accommodation, airlift, and cruise.

In respect to accommodation, she pointed out that DOT is working with their private sector on the reopening of hotels and resorts territory wide. She said the Ritz-Carlton in St. Thomas reopens in November; the Frenchman’s Reef-Marriott Resort and Spa; Marriott’s Autograph Collection; Noni Beach-a St. Thomas Resort, as well as Renaissance Carambola and Divi Carina Bay in 2020.

According to Watley, this winter season air capacity to St. Croix is ahead of 2017 pre-storm levels, while seat capacity to St. Thomas is projected to approach 90 percent of the pre-storm levels. She pointed out that JetBlue Airways from Boston is currently serving St. Thomas with weekly nonstop Saturday flights through February 9, 2020 and will operate a daily nonstop service between February 13 and April 28, 2020.

As for American Airlines, she said it will serve the Miami-St. Croix market with three daily flights for the Thanksgiving holiday and has extended Charlotte-St. Croix flights from Saturday only to daily during the peak Christmas period. The Airlines also has announced weekly year-round Saturday service to St. Thomas from Dallas-Fort Worth, and seasonal Saturday service from Chicago, beginning December 21, 2019. The carrier will also add a third daily flight between Miami and St. Thomas from December 18, 2019.

Eastern Caribbean itineraries have been negatively impacted, said Assistant Comm. Watley by the reduction of cruise calls. According to her, they remain committed to strengthening their relationship with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) and will promote the territory’s advantages with their strong presence at FCCA’s annual Conference and Trade Show in San Juan, Puerto Rico next week.

The new Division of Festivals, she told the Committee, will plan and implement several activities, ranging from organizing and revitalizing events, to rolling out an aggressive marketing campaign. She added that the passage of Act 8153, DOT continues to work the legislature and the office of management and Budget to secure full funding to staff the Division of Festival and the VI Cultural Heritage Institute.

According to Watley, they have laid the groundwork for the planning and promotion of the upcoming Crucian Christmas Festival. The unveiling of the official festival poster and other collateral materials, including a festival logo, and launching of their promotional plans, took place at a tourism ambassadors’ reception in South Florida at Miami Carnival, where they encouraged buy-in and generated excitement for the event.

The Assistant Commissioner said, “in spite of our restricted budget, DOT will continue to dynamically market our destination as we aim to do more with fewer resources.”

Committee members at Thursday’s hearing were: Chairwoman, Senator Allison L. DeGazon, Athneil “Bobby” Thomas, Alicia V. Barnes, Oakland Benta, Marvin A. Blyden, Myron D. Jackson, Kurt A. Vialet, and Novelle E. Francis.

GASOLINE EXCISE TAX, UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE TAX AND GOVERNOR’S BILLS GET FAVORABLE VOTE

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ST. CROIX–The Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet considered several proposed legislations on Tuesday at the Virgin Islands Cardiac Conference Room on St. Croix.

Bill No.33-0052, proposed by Senator Stedmann Hodge, Jr., a Resolution to petition the Governor of the Virgin Islands, and the Delegate to Congress, to join the 33rd Legislature in pursuing the return of a portion of the gasoline excise tax collection by the Federal Government.

Senator Hodge, Jr., speaking on his proposed legislation said, “The financial state of the Government is in disarray. GERS, our hospitals, our schools, compounded infrastructure needs, and having a utility company that has been unreliable for decades with no real strategic plan. It is a challenge!” He added that, people of the Virgin Islands have suffered long enough, thus the Government must look for ways to recoup what it has lost.

Jenifer O’Neal, Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), said she supported the initiative of Bill No.33-0052 in pursuing the return of a portion of the gasoline excise tax collected by the Federal Government. According to the Director, it is important to rectify the ambiguity of the language that has inhibited the return of much needed funds to the treasury of the Virgin Islands.

She pointed out that the estimated structural deficit of the V.I. Government, is estimated to be between $85 million and $115 million per year. Therefore, with the expected amount of gasoline to be refined at the Limetree Bay Refinery on St. Croix, destined for US mainland markets, is expected to range from 45,000 to 53,000 barrels per-day (BPD). She added that since each barrel holds 45 gallons, the estimated amount of Federal Excise Tax revenue would range from $370,575 to $436,455 per day.

She added that if the Federal Government were to return only fifty percent of excise receipts, the Territorial Government could receive in a low case scenario (45,000 BPD), an amount approximately equal to $67 million per year, and $79 million in a high case scenario.

Donald Cole, Former Senator in the 24th Legislature, testified as a private citizen and spearheaded a legislative delegation to the Nation’s capital to lobby the Congress to amend the Organic Act of 1954 and any other applicable Federal Law to authorize the refund to the Virgin Islands Treasury of at least a portion of the taxes collected by the Federal Government on refined oil.

He further stated that he firmly believes, now is the time to develop a unified strategy to approach the Congress and the White House to return the excise taxes on gasoline to the territory.

Other testifiers who supported the initiative of Bill No.33-0052 were Bill Simmons, Managing Director, Dutko Government Relations and Kirk Callwood, Sr., Commissioner, Department of Finance.

The Committee voted in favor of Bill No.33-0052 and sent it to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No.33-0090 proposed by Senators Stedmann Hodge, Jr. and Myron Jackson is an Act amending the Virgin Islands Code to implement a new methodology for assigning individual employer Unemployment Insurance Taxes as administered by the Virgin Islands Department of Labor’s Division on Unemployment Insurance.

Gary Molloy, Commissioner, Department of Labor said his agency is in favor of Bill No.33-0092 as proposed for three reasons: The Bill will bring the US. Virgin Islands back into compliance with Federal Law, will ensure future solvency of the Virgin Islands Trust Fund, and will be easier to administer.

According to Comm. Molloy, there are two areas they would recommend changes: (1) There should be an additional year added to the implementation dates; and (2) They also suggest that they amend the definition of a governmental body.

He pointed out that the Bill seeks to address and correct the financing imbalance and provide an automatic safeguard to ensure the Virgin Islands Unemployment Trust Fund (VIUTF) returns to solvency and remains solvent in the future. He added that as of September 11, 2019, the Virgin Islands outstanding Trust loan balance is $63,408, 970.98. He added that they have $4,438,528. 45 in their current Trust Fund to cover current benefits.

According to Molloy, the Bill will address several significant factors:  the loan repayment and Trust Fund solvency; provides a financial structure that will bring VIUTF back into solvency and avert future deficits; assist with the time frame of repayment, which has a vital impact on the Federal Unemployment Tax Act credit for employers; employer’s taxes will again be based on their own payrolls and contributions payment into the system, instead of a flat rate; and will promote economic growth.

Other testifiers on Bill No.33-0090 were, Nesha Christian-Hendrickson, Legal Counsel, (DOL), Elston George, Director of Unemployment Insurance (DOL), and Gary Halyard, Director, Bureau of Labor Statistics (DOL).

Bill No.33-0090 was amended by Sen. Oakland Benta and voted out of the Committee with a favorable recommendation to the committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No.33-0033 proposed by Senators Donna Frett-Gregory and Marvin Blyden, sought to add a new section to the Virgin Islands Code, in order to reenact the Virgin Islands Tax Study Commission, which will be tasked with reviewing the current laws and tax structure of the Virgin Islands for the purpose of initiating tax reform, and maximizes revenue in a fair and impartial manner.

The Bill was amended by Senator Frett-Gregory and voted out of the Committee and sent to the Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No.33-0146 proposed by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr. by the request of the Governor, sought to amend the Virgin Islands Code, by changing the license renewal period from biennial to annual for an authorized delegate of a money transaction, check cashing, or currency exchange business.

Gwendolyn Hall Brady, Director, Division of Banking, Insurance, and Financial Regulation told the Committee that Act No.8137 transferred responsibility for licensing of authorized delegates for a money transmitter, check cashing or currency exchange business, from the Virgin Islands Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs to the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation.

She further stated that as of now, the licensing and regulatory entity, the Division finds that a requirement of annual licensing renewals subject to and conditioned by the applicant’s mandatory submission of specific compliance reports, is unequivocally necessary. She added that in accordance with the Virgin Islands Code, conducting business without a license will result in fines of $100 for each day after the suspension that the Director did not receive renewal report.

The Bill was technically amended by Senator Janelle K. Sarauv and favorably voted out of the Committee and sent to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No.33-0147 proposed by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., by the request of the Governor-An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code, by deleting from Section 232, the word “life” and “disability”  by adding a new section 248, all to satisfy the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and to provide more effective protection to the policyholders in the territory.

Director Brady said that new Section (248) added to Bill No.33-0147 states that the Bill does not apply to life and health insurers that become insolvent prior to January 1, 2020 or was otherwise insolvent in fact prior to January 2020.  

According to Brady, if life and disability are left in Section 232, then the Insurance Guaranty Fund will not include coverage to protect the policyholders in the U.S. Virgin Islands who are insured by life and health insurance companies that become insolvent. She added that if this Bill become law, and a health insurance company becomes insolvent after January 1, 2020. Then a valid claimant or insured at the time of insolvency shall have a covered claim payable for the Insurance Guaranty Fund.

The Bill was amended by Senator Blyden and favorable voted out of the Committee and sent to the Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No.33-0148 proposed by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., by the request of the Governor, sought to amend the Virgin Islands Code to reflect a change to the definition of a Third-Party Administrator Trust Fund Account as it appears in Act 7695.

Attorney Glendina P. Matthew, Assistant Director and Legal Counsel to the Division said in her testimony that the Division request the Committee’s approval on Bill No.33-0148, which if enacted, will allow licensed TPAs to fully exercise their fiduciary duties based upon sound accounting principles in accordance with the  Virgin Islands Code by maintaining a separate account for funds collected and a separate account for funds disbursed.

The Bill was amended by Senator Blyden and voted out of the Committee with a favorable recommendation and sent to the Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Bill No.33-00149, proposed by Senator Novelle E. Francis, Jr., by the request of the Governor, sought to amend the Virgin Islands code to add a new Chapter 20b entitled “Corporate Governance Annual Disclosure Act.”  It requires the Territory’s domiciled insurers and alien insurers, not doing business in any other U.S. jurisdiction, to submit to the commissioner of Insurance, a corporate governance disclosure report in accordance with the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and that all such reports and related documents, shall be kept confidential by law and privileged.

Atty. Matthew said  the purpose of Bill No.33-00149 is that it requires U.S. Virgin Islands domiciled companies, which includes Dorchester Insurance Company, Guardian Insurance Company, and alien insurance companies which are not doing business anywhere else in the United States, to file a Corporate Governance Disclosure Report that has been prepared in accordance with the National  Insurance standards.  She pointed out that corporate governance is the system of rules, practices and processes by which an insurance company governs itself.

The Bill was amended by Senator Blyden and voted out of the Committee with a favorable recommendation and sent to the Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Senators at Tuesday’s meeting were Chairman, Kurt A. Vialrt, Marvin A. Blyden, Oakland Benta, Janelle K. Sarauw, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Donna A. Fret-Gregory, Stedmann Hodge, Jr., and Novelle E. Francis, Jr.

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NOTICE OF COMMITTEE HEARING POSTPONEMENT

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Please be advised that due to inclement weather and the postponement of tomorrow’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the resumption of the Committee on Housing, Transportation, Infrastructure &Telecommunications hearing, originally scheduled for 5 p.m. on August 29, 2019, is postponed until further notice.
Please take all necessary precautions as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches, and may God bless the Virgin Islands.

NOMINEE AND BILLS GET FAVORABLE RECOMMENDATION TO FULL BODY

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ST. CROIX–The Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Senator Janelle K. Sarauw reconvened Monday afternoon in the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Conference Center at the VI Cardiac Center, St. Croix.

The Committee took testimony from Christopher Finch, nominee to the District Governing Board of Directors of the Juan F. Luis Hospitals. It also discussed and voted on several proposed Bills.

Nominee Finch said he is a social worker and social service program manager with extensive experience in government and non-profit sectors. He added that his most important roles have been Commissioner of the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Executive Director of Lutheran Social Services of the Virgin Islands.

According to him, presently he is a member of five boards of directors: the St. Croix Long Term Recovery Group; My Brother’s Workshop; the St. Croix Children’s Museum, the Édouard Foundation; and the Order of St. John, Knight Hospitaller.

According to Finch, the hospital faces many challenges. For instance, it must complete and then move to a modular setting while remaining fully functioning and must design and build a new hospital. He added that the financial challenges faced by the hospital are immense and must always be a priority of the governing board. Furthermore, the continued receipt of federal funding from CMS that comprises 75-percent of the hospital’s revenue between Medicare and Medicaid depends on the hospital continually meeting stringent performance and quality standards.

Finch concluded his presentation by saying that he has some experience that may be useful to the Governing Board and have had years of oversight of the Medicaid program for the DHS which is one of the critical funding sources for the hospitals.

The Committee voted in favor of the nominee and sent his name to the Full Body for further consideration.

The Committee also voted in favor of the following Bills and were sent onto the Full Body for further consideration: Bill No. 33-0036 An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code by including horses in the definition of livestock-sponsored by Senator Allison L. DeGazon. This Bill was further amended by Sen. DeGazon.

Bill No. 33-0085 An Act amending the Virgin Islands by increasing the number of days for the appointment of members of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council. The Bill sponsored by Senator Steven Payne, Sr.; and Co-sponsored by Senator Javan James, Sr. The Bill was further amended by Senator Novelle Francis, Sr., on behalf of Sen. Payne.

Bill No. 33-0080 An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code regarding the expiration of the appointment of the members to the Legislative Youth Advisory Council-sponsored by Senator Steven Payne, Sr.; and Co-sponsored by Senator Javan James, Sr.

Bill No. 33-0061 An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code relating to the powers of the Economic Development Commission; the section of the Code relating to take reduction benefits for EDC beneficiaries; and Title 29 relating to the Hotel Development Trust Fund-sponsored by Senator Kurt Vialet and Donna Frett-Gregory.

Bill No. 33-0098 An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code by adding a new Chapter requiring that businesses offer at least two payment options to their customers, and matters related to other factors-sponsored by Senator Kurt Vialet and Co-sponsored by Senator Donna Frett-Gregory.

Bill No. 33-0104 An Act amending the Hotel Development Act of the Virgin Islands Code by making technical amendments to various sections and inserting other sections, regarding the Economic Recovery Fee and matters related to other factors-sponsored by Senator Kurt Vialet and Co-sponsored by Senator Athneil “Bobby’ Thomas.

The Committee voted in favor of the Bills and sent them to the Full Body for further consideration.

Committee members present at Monday’s hearing were Chairwoman Senator Janelle K. Sarauw, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Kenneth L. Gittens, Myron D. Jackson, and Alicia V. Barnes. Non-Committee member was Senator Allison L. DeGazon.

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VIPD COMMISSIONER NOMINEE GETS NOD FROM RULES AND JUDICIARY

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ST. CROIX–The Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Senator Janelle K. Sarauw, received testimony on Monday in the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Conference Center, VI Cardiac Center, St. Croix on the nomination of Trevor A. Velinor, Commissioner Nominee to the Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD).

In his testimony, Velinor said that he has served as a law enforcement professional at the Federal level and has completed various law enforcement and leadership training throughout his years in the profession.

With a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Public Administration along with years of AFT’s administrative experience, Velinor said, the VIPD purpose is to ensure public safety by protecting people and property, detect and arrest criminal offenders, and enforce the laws of the Virgin Islands.

According to the Commissioner Nominee, the greatest challenge in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and what has steered him to consider serving in the capacity of Commissioner is the issue of violent crime. He added that, to address the adverse impact of violent crime, particularly where firearms are used, requires a comprehensive and focused approach in pursuit of the worst of the offenders.

He said he will advocate for using all resources to investigate and prosecute recidivists and violent offenders.

Accordingly, he will plan to work tirelessly with all federal and local law enforcement to leverage their resources to ensure that individuals who unlawfully possess and use firearms receive the fullest impact of the law, whether in Federal or Territorial Court.

Velinor told the Committee that technology and investigative competence must merge together to surgically remove the trigger pullers from our community. He pointed out that Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) is a digital image system that matches ballistic evidence to firearms. This, he added, allows investigators to determine if specific firearms are used in multiple shooting incidents.

The Commissioner Nominee emphasized that leveraging technology with traditional investigative techniques can result in optimizing their ability to proactively pursue the worst of the worst offenders—the trigger pullers.

He told the Committee that VIPD is critically understaffed. He added that each district needs approximately 100 more police offers per district to become minimally appropriately staffed.

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Furthermore, staffing deficiency poses a potential threat to our police officers and community.

According to the Nominee, to have enough coverage, officers are working longer hours with less rest; and VIPD desperately needs to increase the number of officers on the force. So, they have had meetings with local partners and federal partners to discuss a Virgin Islands Violent Crime Initiative, and as of now, they are working on details of this initiative that bring peace officers together to work on crime reduction.

Speaking on his strategic plans, Velinor said he will engage in strategic planning sessions to address their mission, values, vision, and goals. The strategic plan will outline how the department intends to achieve its overall mission. Therefore, updating their strategic plan requires all command levels to participate, as the plan affects their entire department.

According to the Nominee, to build trust both internally and externally he will: (1) Have town hall meetings with commissioners; (2) Officers Patrol—walk/talk/listen; (3) Decrease Barriers like getting rid of the barriers between the officers and our community (4) Hear from their chiefs; and (5) Develop a Citizen Academy.

He pointed out that, to become more effective requires discipline, professionalism, accountability, execution, and communication. “I will hold myself and the men and women of VIPD accountable,” said Velinor.

The Committee voted in favor of the nominee and sent his name to the Committee of the Whole for further consideration.

Committee members at Monday’s nomination hearing were Chairwoman Senator Janelle K. Sarauw, Myron D. Jackson, Kenneth L. Gittens, Steven D. Payne, Alicia V. Barnes, and Novelle E. Francis, Jr. Non-Committee member was Senator Oakland Benta. fffffffffff

Members of 33rd Legislature Meet with Governor Bryan

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Senate President Novelle E. Francis, Jr. announced today that members of the 33rd Legislature met with Governor Albert Bryan, Jr. Lt. Governor Tregenza A. Roach and members of his advisory team on Tuesday, August 13, 2019. The meeting was held at the request of Governor Bryan. According to Francis, the meeting provided a useful opportunity to discuss critical areas of concern and exchange views on a range of issues. Agenda items included disaster recovery, TEFRA/Rebasing of Medicaid & Medicare, healthcare, summer maintenance at the Department of Education, federal funding for workforce development and crime.
Sen. Francis said Governor Bryan spoke about ongoing efforts to support recovery stabilization and economic development. Governor Bryan spoke about overall government operations, indicating that this is the first time in many years that the Government of the Virgin Islands has had a credit with the Water and Power Authority. WAPA’s current solvency can be attributed to the Legislature’s initiative to pay over $22 million of monies recovered through Medicaid reconciliation to the authority, through Act 8187.
During the open and far reaching dialogue, senators also sought detailed information on the readiness of the public schools for the 2019-2020 school year and crime. “The Governor reassured the members that execution of the summer maintenance plan will ensure that our schools are ready for the start of the school year,” Francis stated. “Governor Bryan also said that the members will have an opportunity to meet the Commissioner of Police and hear of his plans to involve our federal partners in crime reduction strategies.”
Francis said the meeting Governor Bryan showed that both branches have areas of common ground. “The Legislature remains committed to our shared objectives to develop our economy and support strategies that enable the entire community to participate in our ongoing recovery,” the Senate President concluded.

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Legislature of the Virgin Islands
NO. 1110 STRAND STREET
CHRISTIANSTED, U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS 00820
PH. (340) 712-2324
SENATORFRANCIS@LEGVI.ORG
Honorable
Novelle E. Francis, Jr.
Senate President

VIPBS AND BMV DEFEND FY 2020 BUDGET

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ST. CROIX–The Committee on Finance, chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, convened FY 2020 budget hearing Thursday morning in the UVI Great Hall, Albert A. Sheen Campus, St. Croix with the VI Public Broadcasting System (VIPBS) and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).

Tanya-Marie Singh, Executive Director, VIPBS said in her statement that she requests the support of the Committee on their budget request of $4,030,123.

The Governor has recommended a General Fund lump sum from the Miscellaneous Section for FY 2020 in the amount of $4,030,123. The budget is distributed as follows: Personnel Services-$1,833,546.79; Fringe Benefits-$730,910.64; Supplies-$50,000; Other Services-$1,260,669.57; and Utilities-$155,000.

According to Singh, since FY 2014 to FY 2018, the System has saved $2.4 million by being prudent in their spending, vacancy savings, and in FY 2018 their spending levels were reduced as they operated out of their Attorney’s office at no cost.

She added that they have been notified of $792,461 in insurance award from the VI Government and they are in the process of tapping into $282,337 of that award. Furthermore, the System received $200,000 from a cellphone company out of Puerto Rico as an incentive to repack their frequency.

Singh told the Committee that if FEMA allows them to rebuild their facility to the new FCC standards passed in November 2017, the System will be on equal or better footing with any television and radio station anywhere.

Barbara Jackson-McIntosh, Director, BMV said in order to preform those mandated and necessary functions, BMV FY 2019 General Fund appropriation is $2,277,721 and $1 million in BMV fund, for a total of $3,277,721.

According to the Director, they were projected to receive a total of $2,168,283 in non-appropriated funds from the personalized license plate fund for a grand total for FY 2019 appropriation of $5,446,004.

She added that, in FY 2019 to date they have received a total allotment of $1,960,805 of their appropriated General Fund budget. $750,000 of the appropriated BMV Fund; $2,168,283 of the Projected Personalized Licensed Plate Fund, for a combined total of $4,879,088. Received thus far.

She pointed out that, in FY 2019 to date they have received a total allotment of $1,960,805 of the General Fund Budget; $750,000 of the appropriated BMV Fund; $2,168,283 of the Projected Personalized Licensed Plate Fund for a combined total of $4,879,088 received thus far.

From the allocated General Fund amount, she added, a total of $1,367,540 was expanded; of the BMV Fund allocated they have expended $574,705; and of the amount allotted in the Personalized License Plate Fund $715,467 was expended. Overall, at the end of the 3rd quarter of FY 2019, the BMV has thus far expended an overall total of $2,67,715 with a total unexpended allotment balance of $1, 861,117.

For FY 2020, she pointed out, the recommended budget ceiling for the BMV is $396,541 of which their recommended General Fund appropriation is $2,337,404, and $1 million from the BMV Funds, which is the same amount received in FY 2019. The License Plate Fund recommended budget ceiling for FY 2020 is $1,019,137, which by law mandated that all revenues collected by the BMV must be returned to the BMV.

According to the Director, the revenues must be placed in the Personalized License Plate Fund for the purpose of personnel Services, Capital improvement and operating expenses. She added that they anticipate the amount they will receive will be significantly higher because of the planned modernization of the Bureau’s operations with the goal of improving the service thus increasing the revenues and the amount they will receive.

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VIWMA FY 2020 BUDGET DECREASED BY $6.3 MILLION

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ST. THOMAS–The Committee on Finance, chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, reconvened FY 2020 budget hearings Tuesday afternoon in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, St. Thomas with the VI Waste Management Authority (VIWMA).

According to Adrian Wade Taylor, Interim Executive Director for VIWMA, their capital expenditure is funded by Federal Grants and the remaining budget items are funded by the General Fund. Personnel Services and fringe benefits are funded by the General Fund, Tourism Revolving Fund, Supplemental Environmental Project, and the Antilitter and Beautification Funds.

She further stated that the budget for both the wastewater and solid waste operations is $15.5 million. Wastewater operations is funded by the sewer and General Funds. Solid Waste operations are funded by the general Fund, Antilitter and Beautification, and the St. John Capital Improvements Funds.

She pointed out that for FY 2018 VIWMA did not received $5.1 million appropriations which caused an additional increase in their debt to their vendors. Conversely, for FY 2019, the have received the General Fund Allotment monthly, however they have not received $2.2 million of the Special Funds due at the beginning of this month’s quarter.

According to the Interim Executive Director, the recommended FY 2020 budget is $31,352,847. It is distributed as follows: Personnel Services-$9,084,777; Fringe Benefits-$3,846,978; Supplies-$875,294; Other Services and Charges-$24,108,454; and Public Utilities-$2,752,870.

She pointed out that the requested FY 2020 budget represents a reduction in overall funds from FY 2019 of $6.3 million. That difference, she said, includes $1.7 million from the General Funds; $2.7 million from the Anti-letter and Beautification Fund; $500,000 from the Sewage Fund; and $1.4 million from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund.

According to Taylor, overall, the recommended budget of $31.4 million is not adequate to cover the current cost of essential solid waste and wastewater services provided to the community by the Authority. Furthermore, it takes approximately $60 million per year to operate the Authority. She added that, lack of funding for capital projects deters a comprehensive plan to strengthen their infrastructure and further increases the Authority’s deficit when they must cover infrastructure emergencies with the General Fund.

She told the Committee that the two hurricanes in 2017 have further strained the Authority’s finances as aged infrastructure, and equipment failures require additional funds; therefore, contractors and vendors are not paid timely and Accounts payable continues to grow which is currently estimated over $24 million. She added that the Authority incurred expenses toward the closure of the Territory’s landfills including all hurricane related costs. To date, the cost associated with the Anguilla Landfill is $45.6 million and the Bovoni Landfill is 49.2 million.

According to Taylor, some of the factors that continue to contribute to VIWMA’s deteriorating financial performance are: (1) The solid waste bale production and placement operations at the Anguilla Landfill on St. Croix remains an unfunded capital cost at approximately $5 million annually, and (2) Landfills, Anguilla, and Bovoni capital expenditures court closure activities necessary to achieve compliance with the Landfill Consent Decree, is estimated at over $90 million.

The Interim Executive Director said the Authority continues to work diligently to close out the 1984 Consent Decree.

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LSVI, PERB, AND VILMC RECEIVED FY 2020 BUDGET DECREASES

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ST. THOMAS–The Committee on Finance, chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, convened FY 2020 budget hearings Tuesday morning in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall, St. Thomas with  the Legal Services of the Virgin Islands (LSVI); Public Employees Relations Board (PERB); and the VI Labor Management Committee (VILMC).

Attorney Shelby King Gaddy, Executive Director and CEO, LSVI said in her testimony that for FY19, the Governor’s budget included $1,322,000 for Legal Services and the FY 2020 request is $1,277,050. She added that the decrease represents $70,000 appropriated in FY 2019 for mitigation damages caused to the LSVI property form the hurricanes of 2017.

According to Atty. Gaddy, the sum of $1,277,050 is the amount that was included in the miscellaneous section of the FY 2020 budget. This sum, she pointed out, will allow them to maintain the status quo at their present level of service delivery. Moreover, LSVI is at the lowest staffing level in its history. She said there has been a net loss of three (3) attorneys, and during 2018-2019, LSVI has been in a continuous rebuilding posture to replace the experienced attorney resources.

Atty. Gaddy told the Committee that they are still seeking to engage a fundraiser/development person to allow them to hire at least one additional attorney in each office to handle the ongoing types of cases they traditionally handle. Furthermore, they are constantly in search of other funds to meet the unmet legal needs of the community.

Pierina Jacobs-Feldman, Chairman of PERB said the Governor’s FY 2020 recommended budget is $1,475,301. However, they are requesting an additional amount of $172,066 which brings their total requested for FY 2020 budget to $1,647,367. According to Jacobs-Feldman, the mission of the PERB is to provide for an orderly and constructive relationship between public employers and their employees, and union representatives in a neutral environment.

Zandra Petersen, Executive Director, Certified Officer, and Mediator to the PERB said in her presentation, that the breakdown of their budget request in the amount of $1,647,367 is as follows: Personnel Services-$720,280; Fringe Benefits-$279,22; Capital Outlays-$75,000; Office and Operating Costs-$59,720; and Other Services and Charges-$496,145.

According to Petersen, during FY 2020 PERB will continue to do what is necessary to meet its statutory duties, within its budgetary constraints, especially as it relates to effective management of their caseload.

Aubrey A. Lee, Executive Director, VILMC said the primary focus of VILMC is on the development of an Agency’s Labor Management Committee to provide employees involvement with management, in addressing and recommending resolutions to workplace issues and problems, not directly related to the Collective bargaining Agreement, but impacts the workplace.

Yirah Tutein, Assistant Director, VILMC said the Governor’s recommended budget for FY 2020 is $172,890. Last year FY 2019 budget was $175,000. With this deduction, she added, the over all cost of operating business in the VI, they see the need for an increase of $180,000 to help defray the increase cost of fringe benefits, operating supplies, professional services, and utilities.

According to the Assistant Director, the breakdown is as follows: Personnel-$104,000; Health Insurance and Fringe Benefits-$16,200; Office Supplies-$5,000; and Services and Other Charges-$54,800. She added that, the plan of operation has been developed using expertise within the VI Government and its instrumentalities, labor organization, the federal government and private institutions were necessary.

This approach, she pointed out, is aimed at prudent use of budget funds to obtain maximum results and benefits. A total of $180,000 is being requested to continue the program from October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020.

GOVERNOR’S NOMINEES GET COMMITTEE NOD

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ST. THOMAS–The Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Senator Janelle Sarauw held confirmation hearings on Wednesday in the Earl B. Ottley Legislative Hall, St. Thomas to consider several nominees sent down by the Governor of the Virgin Islands.

Raymond Williams, Nominee for the Directorship of the VI Lottery (VIL) said that they are looking at new opportunities to enhance and make the traditional games more competitive and attractive. In this way, they are considering moving to a weekly drawing and reassessing the prizes along with the costs of tickets.

He added that they have had preliminary discussions with the Property and Procurement about printing their tickets, as currently, tickets are printed by an off-island contractor. Furthermore, to enhance ticket sales, they would have their vendors incorporate debit/credit card purchases, in addition to cash sales.

Dr. Vincentia Paul-Constantin, Nominee to the VI Board of Licensed Counselors and Examiners said in her presentation that hospitals in the territory are not equipped to handle the everyday needs of mental patients, and the schools are ill-prepared to accommodate students who have significant learning disabilities, and emotional and behavioral challenges.

She pointed out that issues and challenges impacting the mental health care and substance abuse system in the Virgin Islands are; (1) Limited qualitative and quantitative data for system oversight planning and evaluation; (2) fragmented system of care;(3) lack of transitional programs, acute care to outpatient services, and related support services; (4) serious gaps in services/continuum of services, and a need to include suicide prevention and services for the homeless who are mentally ill; and (2) dwindling funding for mental health and substance abuse.

She told the Committee that as a candidate for committee membership of the proposed board, she brings a wholistic view of experience, education, and expertise.

Hugo Vincent Hodge, Jr., Nominee to the VI Horse Racing Commission said his understanding of sports, horse racing, he possesses a strong skillset in organizational behavior, planning, operations, and regulatory management.

He told the Committee that he fully understands the nature of the conflict of interest. As a horse owner and a board member, he understands the importance of recusing himself from any vote on an issue where it might personally benefit him.

His short-term goals, he said is to ally regional tracks that allow for a balanced, conflict-free, racing calendar; incentive for native breeding; proper functioning pari-mutuel; and proper track surfacing.

His long-term goals, he added, are stable and affordable inter-island transportation for horse owners; simulcasting nationally of local races; and development of a local horse racing industry that includes more frequent racing inclusive of claiming stakes.

Shane Benjamin, Nominee to the VI Horse Racing Commission said over the years he has moved from being a groomer to owning his horses. He stated that he also acquired an owner’s license at Gulfstream Park and has been a board member of the St. Thomas/St. John Horsemen Association since 2015.

His goals, he pointed out are: (1) move horse racing from a hobby or sport in becoming an industry and to inform and educate the local horse owners, trainers, grooms, and exercise riders; (2) creating rules and regulations to keep all who are involved in a race day safe; (3) monitor and make sure that promoters are abiding by the rules and their commitment to the Horsemen Association and the government; and (4) seek to get grants, funding, land, donations, and volunteers.

Catikawa Richardson, Nominee to the Board of Licensed Counselors and Examiners said that he is an advocate and an advocate is to have courage, independence, and passion for the things that matter.

He added that his independence and courage help him go where no one else wants to go and interact with those members of the community who are overlooked forming a bond of trust they so desperately need.

According to Richardson, in the 9-years that he was with the St. John Community Crisis Center, he implemented the Kids Against Drugs and Alcohol, Senior Prescription Fund, and a 24-hour emergency hotline. Furthermore, he had the honor of teaching a seminar in Los Angeles, California about the signs of elderly abuse.

The Rules and Judiciary Committee approved all four nominees and sent them on to the Full Body for further consideration.

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