Category: Finance

THE NOMINATIONS OF COMMISSIONER NOMINEES MOVE

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Rules and Judiciary chaired by Sen. Alicia Barnes, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, and voted favorably for three nominations sent to the Legislature by Governor Albert Bryan; set forth from Section (16) of the Revised Organic Act of 1954, and Title 3, Section 65a of the Virgin Islands Code. All items approved will be forwarded to the Committee of the Whole for further consideration.

The approved nominations are Kirk Callwood, Commissioner Nominee of the V.I. Department of Finance, Gary Malloy, Commissioner Nominee of the V.I. Department of Labor (VIDOL) and Joseph Boschulte, Commissioner Nominee of the V.I. Department of Tourism. Sen. Barnes noted that it is the responsibility of the Legislature to conduct a detailed vetting process before approving each nominee.

Under a line of questioning, Sen. Barnes requested that Nominee Callwood expounds on the strategies to improve operations in the St. Croix District as it relates to vendors and tracking payments. Callwood stated that he intends on filling vacancies such as the Director of Treasury on St. Croix to oversee and streamline operations. Currently, the Core Leadership Team comprises of seven members; with one from the St. Croix District and six from the St. Thomas-St. John District. Sen. Athneil Thomas inquired about GVI cash at hand. Nominee Callwood mentioned that there are ten days cash at hand totaling $26 million with expenditures of $2 million per day. The balance is divided by the remaining allotments for the rest of FY 2019.

Overall, Nominee Callwood has over twenty-two years of experience in leadership, policymaking, and strategic planning. Some of his short-term goals are to collaborate with government agencies to conduct quarterly training with fiscal officers, to reimburse the General Fund through the verification of the biweekly payroll, and to pursue draw-downs on Federal and Disaster Funds and reimbursement to the General Fund. Some of his long-term goals are inclusive of integrating the Tyler Munis Modules to promote work efficiency Territory-wide, to re-establish a healthy relationship with the capital markets for investment and to develop a ten-year strategic plan to pay off the structural deficit of GVI.

Separately, Nominee Malloy has thirty years of experience, specifically twenty-seven years of leadership positions at the Department of Education and in the private sector. To improve operations of VIDOL, he intends on eliminating the high-risk status of federal requirements, implementing training for employees, hiring employees to fill critical vacancies and to continue assessing and implementing VIDOL’s statutory responsibilities. Sen. Janelle Sarauw inquired whether employees working beyond their job capacities receive compensation. Nominee Malloy stated that some of them are while others aren’t. Directors are responsible for assessing their employee’s tasks and submitting the documents to payroll.

Lastly, Nominee Boschulte stated that one of the significant challenges of the Department of Tourism is the shortage of hotel inventory and occupancy of available rooms because of the damages sustained post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Any available hotel rooms are currently occupied by disaster recovery workers who are there until the restoration of the Territory. Additionally, there was a shortage of new inventory for over twenty years. Another challenge is maintaining and increasing airlift capacity. Sen. Barnes inquired of restoring the availability of air travel to and from St. Croix. Nominee Boschulte stated that within the next ninety days there would be negotiations with major airlines to restore service and frequency of trips to the St. Croix District.

The strategic plan to propel the Department of Tourism forward mirrors the goals shared by previous Commissioner Beverly Nicholson Doty’s transition report. Raising revenues from expenditures of domestic and international visitors, improving the overall tourism product, and promoting the beauty of each island are some of the strategies to enhance the overall tourism product.

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SENATORS HELD IN COMMITTEE BILL AS IT RELATES TO GERS AND APPROVED THREE LEASE AGREEMENTS

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Friday, and voted to hold in committee Bill No. 33-0014 as it relates to the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS). However, senators voted favorably for three lease agreements. All approved items on the agenda will be forwarded to the Committee on the Whole for further consideration.

The measure seeks to amend Section 13 of Act No. 7261 as amended by striking “$7,000,000” and inserting “$10,000,000” and Section 13 of Act No. 7261 as amended by Act No. 8125 is amended by striking “outstanding employer contributions” and inserting “as a direct contribution.” Bill Sponsor Sen. Frett-Gregory stated that the bill is a step in the right direction to resolve GERS priority issues.

Currently, the outstanding employer contribution to GERS totals $71,809,752.63. Out of those monies, $66,799,769.89 is owed for member’s annual benefits; $4,007,986.19 is assumed for lost investment; and $1,001,996.55 is owed in delinquency fees. The outstanding employer contributions are for the statutory fixed rate that is contributed bi-weekly on behalf of the members of the GERS. Sen. Frett-Gregory noted that the estimated $71 million is a part of the $3 billion issues that have the same component for interest. The $71 million is a part of the structural deficit.

GERS Administrator/CEO Austin Nibbs expressed his support of the bill because the $1.8 million was previously used as a direct contribution to the unfunded liability and the nine unfunded mandates. GERS received the $21 million on February 25th from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and invested the funds in its portfolio on March 1st. To process annuity payments to 165 retirees, GERS submitted documentation requesting OMB and the Department of Finance for the reimbursement of $1.8 million.

However, OMB Acting Director Jennifer O’Neal is opposition to the bill because the $71 million is a significant debt, incurs penalties, late fees and a loss of investment. GERS should use the $10 million for debt reduction, not for unfunded liability and unfunded mandates. “OMB is aware of the need to reduce the outstanding employer contributions and not compound the outstanding sum with further charges for delinquency fees and lost investment penalties. OMB maintains reservations regarding a change to the language from Outstanding Contributions.”

Separately, lawmakers voted favorably for the three lease agreements between the Government of the Virgin Islands and the Department of Property and Procurement (DPP) on behalf of their clients. Presently, the process of approving lease agreements can take up to six months to a year. Sen. Frett-Gregory inquired about the challenges with moving lease agreements forward?” DPP Deputy Commissioner Laverne Bailey noted that corporate documents might not be in place; in some cases, there are expired business licenses and lease agreements. Bailey stated that lease agreements last from 10-20 years and the client would receive a letter or renewal.

Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, DPP on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Rueben Liburd and Sylvia Liburd. Plot No. 4-LA VI CORP Land, Prince Quarter, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, consisting of approximately 2.072 US acres. Twice Farmer of the Year in the Agricultural Fair Rueben Liburd stated that some of the produce grown on the farm are radish, carrots, and passionfruit. Sen. Blyden inquired about the type of machinery needed to fulfill farming tasks. In response, Liburd noted that the land preparation is hindered because the tractors need repairs and there is a shortage of farmers on the land.

Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, DPP on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Violet Drew and Samuel Tyson. Plot No. 4-G VI CORP Land, Prince Quarter, St. Croix Virgin Islands, Consisting of approximately 3,656 US acres. In addition to crop production, the value of the farm increases because homemade products are sold such as tomato sauce, coconut oil, and jams. Sen. Alison DeGazon inquired about the challenges of farming. In response Drew stated that parts of the fence were damaged, post-hurricanes Irma and Maria. As a result, unwanted animals such as deer and iguanas enter the farm.

Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, Department of Property and Procurement and Dave Jeffers d/b/a Paradise Trucking Service. Parcel No. 99 b-3 Submarine Base, No. 6 Southside Quarter, St Thomas, Virgin Islands, consisting of 4,969 sq. Ft or 0.11 US acres of land more or less. The purpose of the lease is to allow Paradise Trucking to expand current operations and to continue to provide trucking and delivery services in support of the storms. The agreement is for ten years with one five-year period for renewal.

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LAWMAKERS UPDATED ON THE FINANCIAL STATUS OF THE TERRITORY

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony on an update of the financial status of the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) and the Disaster Recovery Funds.

Sen. Frett-Gregory noted that this is an opportunity for the Governor’s Financial Team to provide a clear understanding of local and federal dollars and the use of funds moving forward. “Transparency is critical and necessary for lawmakers to make informed decisions.”

Currently, GVI is operating with an ongoing structural deficit estimated at $415 million. The aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria created a downward ripple effect on the financial condition of the Territory by hindering revenue collections which led to liquidity issues. As a result, GVI borrowed additional Working Capital Funds from the Federal Government inclusive of the Community Disaster Loans (CDL) totaling $215 million; of which $144 million is for the Central Government, $42 million for the Juan F. Luis Hospital and $28 million is for Schneider Regional Medical Hospital. Sen. Stedman Hodge inquired about how will CDL be repaid. Department of Finance Acting Commissioner Kirk Callwood stated that Gross Receipt Taxes secure CDL. The start date for loan repayment begins in April 2019.

The Fiscal Year 2018 revenues collected as of September 20, 2018, are $710 million to include tax collections. Additional revenues collected was $27 million. Overall, this totals $737 million for General Fund revenues. GVI distributed $40 million for Income Tax Revenues in FY 2018 and is expecting refund payments estimated at $38 million for FY 2019. The increase in personnel cost for the salary of government employees totals $25,550,789. Out of that, the Department of Education will receive an estimated $15 million. Equally important, the balance on insurance proceeds is $53 million out of $120 million. The amount expended was $67 million, and that was distributed to government agencies to assist with necessary repairs.

To date, GVI has $36 million for cash-at-hand. “That is concerning to me because $36 million equates to 16 days. This is not a true representation because there are vendors that are still unpaid,” said Sen. Frett Gregory. Sen. Novelle Francis added that there needs to be a Cash Management Team to ensure vendor payments because vendors pay Gross Receipt Tax. As of January 31, 2019, GVI’s General Obligation Debt totals $861.6 million; to include CDL. The Matching Fund Revenue Obligation Debt is $802.9 million.

Separately, the Federal Government has awarded $1.6 billion for approximately 1,000 projects inclusive of the 500 projects that are going through the lengthy process of inspection and approval. The Federal monies cover post-hurricanes damages throughout the Virgin Islands. Out of those monies, government agencies were issued $722 million for the Disaster Recovery Funds. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has obligated $894 million for approved projects.

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Finance Committee to hold meeting with Governor’s financial team to get update on the Territory’s financial position

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St. Thomas- Committee on Finance to meet with the Governor’s Financial team in late January to gain early insight into the financial affairs of the Government of the Virgin Islands.
“As the territory continues to be impacted by a myriad of the residual effects of Hurricanes Irma and Maria, inability to pay vendors, halt of excise tax collections, changes in the corporate tax requirements, to name a few; the members of the 33rd Legislature and Virgin Islands community require a clear picture of the territory’s financial position and we need to do so now”, said Senator Donna Frett-Gregory, Chairperson of the Finance Committee.
While we understand the Governor is still working to finalize his cabinet, it is expected that the members of the Governor’s financial team will be available to provide the required status update. It is mission critical that full, accurate financial information is provided as transparency and accountability will be the focus of the Finance Committee of the 33rd Legislature.
“We have much work to do! It is imperative that we hit the ground running to get early wins for our people” said Frett-Gregory.

FINANCE COMMITTEE APPROVES LEASE AGREEMENTS BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS AND PRIVATE BUSINESSES

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday and considered several lease agreements between the Department of Property and Procurement (DPP) on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) and private entities. All approved measures will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Lease Agreement between the DPP on behalf of GVI and Charles Electrical Services, LLC. For the premises described as Parcel No. 100 Submarine Base, No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, consisting of approximately 1.143 sq. Ft. which is zoned “C” Commercial as shown on O.L.G. No. b9-278-170. The purpose is to renovate and used to operate as an office and warehouse for an Electrical Contractor. Policymakers voted and approved this lease agreement.

The term of the agreement is for 20 years. The annual rent is $10,143.0 paid in monthly installments of $845.25. “There is a clause in the rent abatement of 36 months. However, in the original agreement, the rent abatement was for 18 months. Can you expound?” asked Sen. Tregenza Roach. Vincent Richards, Deputy Commissioner of the Property and Printing of DPP, stated that the 18 months is a typo. The rent reduction is for 36 months because of the Hurricane Marilyn damaged property.  The client continues to pay for expenses to clean up. Once the building is in use for business, DPP will collect rent from the tenant.

GVI acting by and through DPP will enter into a proposed Lease Agreement with ERK Corporation for Parcel No. 48 Estate Nadir, No. 2 Red Hook Quarter, St. Thomas, the Virgin Islands, consisting of 6,677sq. Ft. and zone W-1, shown on OLG No. D9-3897-T08. The property will be used to operate a catering service business. Senators voted and approved this lease agreement.

Emerson Knight, Sr. President of E.R.K. Corporation, stated that a permanent structure would further stabilize the business. “We need a brick and mortar location to promote expansion and have a consistent face to face contact with our customers,” said Knight.  Deputy Commissioner Richards added that the terms of the lease agreement are to all the business to expand, invest and improve government premises. This lease agreement is a long-term investment.

GVI acting by and through DPP will enter into a lease agreement with Quality Paving, LLC. For Parcel No. 149 Rem. Submarine Base, No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands consisting of 4.51 U.S. Acres or 196,645 U.S. sq. Ft. The purpose of the property will be used to operate a paving company, asphalt plant, aggregate storage, offices, and a concrete plant. Senators voted and approved this lease agreement.

In response to a line of questioning by Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, President of Quality Paving Neil Carty stated that he is not partnering with anyone from the company Better Roads for this business venture. Warren Mosler is not an investor in this project. However, there are investors lined up once the lease is approved and Quality Paving, LLC intends on hiring thirty employees.

Separately, lawmakers also approved Bill No. 32-0123, a lease agreement between GVI through DPP on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Ricardo Barnes for the premises described as Plot# 22-1Estate Plessen, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands consisting of approximately 4.711 U.S. acres more or less as shown on O.L.G. drawing #4128.

However, senators voted to hold in committee Lease Agreement between DPP on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands and Industrious Auto Repair, Inc. for premise described as Parcel Nos. 51 and 51A Submarine Base. No. 6 Southside Quarter, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, consisting of 42,053 total sq. Ft., and Zoned “C.”

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BILL TO INCREASE LIVING WAGE FOR GOV. EMPLOYEES MOVES FORWARD

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St. Thomas- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Monday, and voted to approve several measures including Bill No. 32-0237-An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 25, subchapter V, section 555b to provide for minimum wage for employees of the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI), its semi-autonomous agencies and independent instrumentalities.

“This bill was originally introduced at the beginning of this term when the economic state of the Virgin Islands was declining,” said Sen. Forde. “Since then, we have seen the improvements in corporate investments and businesses that now afford us the opportunity to enact these wage increases.”

Bill No. 32-0237 was initially proposed in February 2017 by senators Jean Forde, Kurt Vialet, and Marvin Blyden. On July 30, 2018, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp released the Executive Order 437-2018 and 438-2018 with the intent to provide a living wage to government employees. However, the Executive Order wasn’t implemented until August 1, 2018. Explicitly, the Executive Order states that all annual salaries of Executive Branch employees will increase to $13/hr. or $27,040 annum. The base salaries of social workers, teachers, and other vital government workers will also rise.

“We know the realities of the financial state of the Territory. Was an analysis conducted before issuing the Executive Order?” asked Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly. Julio Rhymer, Director of Office and Management and Budget stated that the cost of living in the Territory is significantly higher than the mainland, but there is a reduction of salaries in the same positions on the mainland. The $27,040 salary gives employees an ability to qualify for homeownership programs. “How will GVI finance the living wage increase?” inquired Sen. O’Reilly. Director Rhymer stated that supplemental income totaling $11 million would cover the raises. Based on a five-year projection of the economy, GVI can sustain the increase.”  However, Sen. Positive Nelson stated that this is “unreal, unrealistic, and unsustainable.”

The breakdown of the $11 million is as follows: the raises for government employees is an estimated $4 million to $6 million and the wage increase for unionized employees is $5 million. “How much money was set aside for non-unionized employees?” asked Sen. Tregenza Roach. Director Rhymer stated that separately, approximately $15 million for non-unionized employees and $10 million for the Department of Education.

Sen. Dwayne DeGraff inquired, “Will monies from the Property Tax and Sin Tax be used to support the living wage increase?” Director Rhymer stated that there are other funds set aside such as the ArcLight Deal. The wage increases are not financed by either tax. “The last minimum wage increase was in 2005,” added Sen. Vialet. “The Sin Tax and Property Tax has nothing to do with the increase of today.”

Separately, policymakers voted and approved the following bills below. All measures adopted will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

  • Bill No. 32-0229 – An Act amending Title 23 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 10, Subchapter I, Section 1004 requiring the Government of the Virgin Islands to enter into contracts before June 1 of each year in preparedness for hurricane season or any emergency or major disaster
  • Quitclaim Deed from the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement on behalf of the Government of the Virgin Islands to Cyril LaPlace as Trustee of the Cyril A. La Place Trust for the following property: Parcel No. 11-B Estate Dorothea, No. 6 Little Northside Quarter St. Thomas, Virgin Islands consisting of approximately 230 square feet as illustrated on OLG NO. D9-9141-T016 dated March 14, 2016.

However, the following was held in committee:

  • Bill No. 32-0101 – An Act appropriating $100,000 from the Tourism Advertising Revolving Fund to Calypso, Inc. for continuing musical education for the youth of the Virgin Islands and;
  • Bill No. 32-0076 – An Act to amend title 33, chapter 3, by adding section 43k allowing for the reduction of the gross receipts tax of one percentage point for established businesses that show 12% year over year revenue growth
  • Bill No. 32-0256 – To amend VIC Title 9 by adding a new Chapter 14 to address Consumer and Commercial Loan activities and to add a new chapter related to Consumer and Commercial Loans

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Dwayne DeGraff, Tregenza Roach, Brian Smith, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Janelle Sarauw, Neville James, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Jean Forde, Janette Millin Young.                                                  Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                           ###

V.I. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE AND THE WEST INDIAN COMPANY LIMITED SHARES FY 2019 PROJECTED BUDGET

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Monday, to receive testimony from the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture (VIDOA), and the West Indian Company Limited on the FY 2019 budget appropriations.

VIDOA General Fund request is $4,013,625. The budget is a 12% reduction in comparison to the FY 2017 appropriation of $4,587,000. VIDOA is mandated to receive $500,000 due to Act No. 6836, the Agriculture Sustainable Act. The combination of the General Fund and the required monies totals the FY 2019 budget request for the General Fund to $4,513,625. The budget breakdown is as follows: Personnel services and fringe benefits represent 85.5% and operating expenses is 14.4%. Additionally, VIDOA will also receive $1,000,000 from the Tourism Agriculture Revolving Fund. The Department anticipates Federal Funds totaling $339,262.

“Considering that there is a 12% reduction in the FY 2019 budget, how will it affect VIDOA?” asked Sen. Tregenza Roach. Carlos Robles, Commissioner of VIDOA, stated that Federal Funds allows the allocation to groups of farmers.  Sen. Vialet also inquired, “Did VIDOA receive contributions from the Casino Fund?” Delreese Brown, Director of Administration and Management at VIDOA stated that VIDOA received funds in the third quarter of FY 2018.

Post-Hurricanes Irma and Maria, VIDOA is collaborating with FEMA, VITEMA and Witt O’Brien to develop Project Worksheets to repair or replace the infrastructure, buildings, and equipment damaged because of the storms. Currently, the Department has eleven vacancies that are critical for operation. Despite challenges, VIDOA managed to meet with VINGN and the Department of Human Services to begin discussion on making wireless internet access for farmers markets throughout the Territory.

Sen. Roach inquired, “When can local farmers access SNAP Farmers Market Technology Program?” In response, Commissioner Roble said, “Internet access will allow the Dept. of Human Services and VIDOA to engage with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service for the installation of EBT card reading devices at each of the farmer’s markets.” VINGN has assessed the Bordeaux Farmer’s Market and is developing an implementation plan.

Separately, Clifford Graham, President, and Chief Executive Officer stated that for FY 2019 the Miscellaneous Income projected at $141,368. “However, no itemization was submitted to verify the dollar amount.” FY 2019 budget is $4,375,074. The budget is an increase in comparison to the $3,281,854 appropriated for FY 2017. Personnel, fringe and Capital Outlays are $1,575,000 for FY 2019. WICO’S Expenditures and projections are $13,978,640 for FY 2019. Some of their goals are to complete recovery work on the property, complete the FY 2018 Audit, and to finalize the acquisition of the Havensight Mall from GERS.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Janelle Sarauw, Novelle Francis, Dwayne DeGraff, Tregenza Roach, Brian Smith, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly. Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                            

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VIRGIN ISLANDS CARNIVAL AND OTHER ENTITIES SHARES FY 2019 PROJECTED BUDGET

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Monday, to receive testimony from officials from the Virgin Islands Carnival, Festival & Cultural Organization of St. John, The Crucian Christmas Festival, The Department of Tourism and the Virgin Islands Housing Authority on the FY 2019 budget appropriations.

The recommended FY 2019 budget for the Virgin Islands Carnival is $545,000 the Festival & Cultural Organization of St. John FY 2019 budget is $320,000, and the Crucian Christmas Festival FY 2019 budget is $520,000.

“If there is nothing to hide, why hasn’t the V.I. Carnival Committee provided detail information on all the monies received?” inquired Sen. Nereida O’Reilly. Halvor Hart III, Executive Director of the V.I. Carnival stated that the information on the document, “Transaction Detail by Account” has the breakdown for the $545,000.  “Although the $545,000 is detailed, there is missing information for the additional $292,371 given to the committee through various sponsorships,” said Sen. Vialet. Hart stated that he would compile the information and submit it to the Senate.

“This is disrespectful to the first branch of government that documents were subpoena and still there is a lack of transparency for the use of government funds,” said Sen. Janelle Sarauw.

Sen. Tregenza Roach inquired if it is possible that carnival and festivals can be self-sustaining to the point where government funds are not needed? “This will boil down to charging people who attend the concerts in the village,” said Davidson Charlemagne, President of the Crucian Festival. Leona Smith, Chairperson of the Festival and Cultural Organization of St. John added that economic sustainability is contingent upon the state of the economy.

The Virgin Islands Carnival, there were 369 complimentary tickets for the Prince and Princess Show, 369 complimentary tickets from the Queen Show and 301 complimentary tickets disseminated by the Calypso Competition. “Why were 33% and 25% of complimentary tickets distributed, when these are revenue generating events?” asked Sen. Vialet. Hart stated that complimentary tickets distributed for intermission performances such as majorettes, bands, and singers.  “This is an enormous amount of free tickets compared to low sales,” said Sen. Vialet.

Smith stated that the Festival and Cultural Organization of St. John disbursed 20 complimentary tickets. Charlemagne noted that there were six complimentary tickets distributed by the Crucian Christmas Festival.

Separately, the Department of Tourism and the Virgin Islands Housing Authority shared the FY 2019 budget. Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of the Department of Tourism, shared that the budget request for FY 2019 is $20,668,404. Out of that, the General Fund is $2,283,404, and the Tourism Revolving Fund is $18,385,000. Additionally, carnival activities are $1,385,000, Sports Tourism development is $1,000,000 and marketing/promotions is $16,000,000. The breakdown for the General Fund budget request is as follows: $1,440,889 for personnel, $585,540 for fringe benefits, $22,000 for supplies, $159,123 for other services and charges, and $75,852 for public utilities.

Commissioner Doty stated that some of the goals and objectives for FY 2019 include, working with operators and attractions to implement recommendations on St. Croix, supporting the Bureau of Economic Developing “Made in the Virgin Islands” program and create mechanisms to cooperatively market and to establish innovative ways to market cultural activities and events to develop channels to increase visitor participation.

Robert Graham, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Housing Authority stated that the FY 2019 budget is $9,553,554.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Janelle Sarauw, Dwayne DeGraff, Neville James, Tregenza Roach, Brian Smith, Myron Jackson, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly.                                                  Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                           ###

 

THE OFFICE OF COLLECTIVE BARGAINING SHARES FY 2019 BUDGET

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony from officials from the Office of Collective Bargaining (OCB) and other agencies for the FY 2019 budget appropriations.

Governor Kenneth E. Mapp’s recommended budget for OCB totals $920,913. The proposed expenditures and budget breakdown for FY 2019 is as follows: personnel services are $489,549 or 53.16%, fringe benefits are $189,364 20.6%, equipment and supplies are $30,000 or 3.26%, utilities are $9,000 or .98%, other services are $155,000 or 16.83%, and capital outlay is $48,000 or 5.21%.

The allocated funds requested for capital outlay are for labor-management relations, to upgrade computers and software programs, and to purchase a vehicle. Sen. Dwayne DeGraff inquired about the primary use for the capital outlay. Natalie Tang, Esq., Chief Negotiator Chief Negotiator for the Government of the Virgin Islands, Office of Collective Bargaining said, “Training for employees tasked with compliance with existing collective bargaining agreements is very critical. Additionally, the training that OCB provides to various government agencies is essential to the productivity of each Department.”

Sen. Vialet inquired about the two vacant positions at OCB and the increase of personnel services. Chief Negotiator Tang said, “The two job openings are for an Administrative Assistant for the St. Thomas-St. John District and the St. Croix District. The necessity of the two positions has increased the budget for personnel services.”

“Considering that OCB’s budget is under a million dollars, is that sufficient to carry out all mandates?” asked Novelle Francis. Chief Negotiator Tang stated that the requested budget is an ample amount to satisfy the requirements of the Department. “To successfully meet our goals and initiatives proposed by this Administration, we request that the approved budget is a lump sum of $920,913,” she said. The goals of OCB are to reduce the backlog of labor cases, improve the operations of labor-management relations, and to bring expired contracts to a current status.

Sen. Tregenza Roach shared his remarks as it pertains to the governor granting raises to some employees at OCB. “It is no doubt that government employees deserve a raise. My concern is sustaining any increases that this body is implementing and that there are parity and homogeneity in the labor and working conditions in the bargaining unit.”

Separately, the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) and the Virgin Islands Lottery also shared the FY 2019 budget.

Lawrence Kupfer, the Executive Director of WAPA, shared the capital and operating budgets for the Electric and Water Systems. For FY 2019, the income and expense report for the Electric System totals $541,488. As of May 2018, the operating revenues from sales of 343,312-megawatt hours of electricity, the electric system earned over $156.9 million. However, the operating expenses and net deductions totaled $183.3 million with a net operating loss of $26.4 million. Currently, LEAC revenues total $82.3 million. Virgin Islands Government Accounts Receivables balance is $33.7 million ending May 2018. The primary accounts that have an outstanding balance are Juan F. Luis Hospital ($10,695,507), Roy Lester Schneider Hospital ($9,483,378), Finance ($3.1 million) and V.I. Waste Management ($1,662,024).

For FY 2019 The Water System Income and Expense totals 1,305,143 gallons of water. Thus far, there is a net loss of $279,000. However, based on the operating revenues of $32.1 million from sales of 1,305,143 gallons of water the projected income is $4.2 million for FY 2019. The deductions and incurred operating expenses total $27.6 million. The V.I. Government Accounts Receivables totals $7.5million. The primary accounts that owe are Roy Lester Schneider Regional Hospital ($1,889,614), Juan F. Luis Hospital ($2,189,017), V.I. Housing Authority ($1,444,153) and V.I. Waste Management ($34,987).

Juan Figueroa, Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Lottery (VIL) stated that VIL does not receive monies from the General Fund. The update is as follows: primary revenues components are Video Lottery Gaming, Scratch Games, Powerball, Mega Millions, Super Lotto, and Traditional Games. FY 2019 revenue projections are $20,114,477.  Total operating expenses is $14,490,725 which results from mandatory transfers of $5,073,057.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle Francis, Tregenza Roach, Brian Smith, Novelle Francis, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Janelle Sarauw, Neville James, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly.                                                Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                           ###

 

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR SHARES FY 2019 PROJECTED BUDGET

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ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Monday, to receive testimony from officials from the Department of Labor (DOL) and other agencies for the FY 2019 budget appropriations.

The governor’s recommended budget for DOL is $11,119,439. The budget breakdown is as follows: $10,223,152 from the General Fund and $896,287 from the Government Insurance Fund. $801,333 is the non-appropriated local funding and $6,268,072 is the non-appropriated Federal Fund totaling $18,188,844.

“Securing Federal Grants has been an issue for DOL for quite some time,” said Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly. “Are there Federal Grants that are at risk?” she asked. In response, Averil George, Commissioner Designee at DOL stated that The Workforce Grant, a grant for adults and youths and Foreign Labor Grant totaling $34,000 are at-risk. Sen. O’Reilly asked, “Is DOL able to rescue those grants?” George stated that the grants expired in March 2018 and June 2018.

Thus far, for FY 2018 the total received for Worker’s Compensation Administration totals $4,500,000. The funds expended is broken down into two categories: $1,033,861 for Injured Workers and $2,420,716 for Providers. “Why is DOL struggling with workers compensation?” inquired Sen. Janelle Sarauw. George stated that DOL is severely understaffed and there are eight vacancies for those positions. DOL will start a campaign to attract new hires.

“What is the unemployment rate?” asked Sen. Positive Nelson. Gary Halyard, Director of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said, “Currently, unemployment Territory-wide is down to 9.5%. Post-hurricanes it was 18%. Before the storms, it was approximately 11%. Sen. Vialet inquired, “What is the number of people looking for jobs?” Halyard stated that the number fluctuates based on the positions open. For example, if there are a lot of jobs, then more people apply. However, if contractual jobs are available, then fewer people fill out applications.

Separately, The Virgin Islands Energy Office (VIEO), the Office of Veterans Affairs and the Roy Lester Schneider Hospital shared their FY 2019 budget appropriations.

Elmo Roebuck, Jr., Director of the VIEO stated that the recommended budget totals $1,125,408. Considering that the FY 2019 budget mirrors FY 2017, there is a reduction of $135,058 in comparison to FY 2018.  The budget breakdown is as follows: $554,999 for personnel services, $251,568 for fringe benefits, $269,728 for other services, and $21,000 for supplies.

Patrick Farrell, Director of the V.I. Office of Veterans Affairs stated that the recommended budget for FY 2019 is $783,625. Approximately, $335,544 is for personnel salaries and fringe benefits, $31,081 is for operating expenses, $300,000 for medical travel and death benefits and $117,000 for projected non-appropriated funds from the V.I. Lottery and Taxi-Cab Commission.

Dr. Bernard Wheatley, Chief Executive Officer of Schneider Regional Medical Center stated that the operational budget for FY 2019 is $28.3 million. In comparison to the FY 2018 budget of $34 million, this is a reduction of $5.6 million. “However, the projected net patient revenue of $33.9 million for FY 2018 has increased because of the federal match for Medicaid to 100%. For FY 2019, SRMC is estimated net patient revenue of $45.1 million which includes an estimated additional $4.8 million of revenue from the Medicaid Match,” said Dr. Wheatley.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Janelle Sarauw, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle Francis, Positive Nelson, Tregenza Roach, Brian Smith, Novelle Francis, and Nereida Rivera O’Reilly.                                                  Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                           ###