Category: Press Releases

LEGISLATIVE HOME NOW ON THE HORIZON FOR THE BIG ISLAND

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ST. CROIX– Senate President Myron D. Jackson and Vice-President Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly announced early today that a new site for the Legislature on St. Croix has been procured.

“We are excited to have a place to call home, our central and senatorial staff have worked in two separate locations far longer than we anticipated,” said Vice-President O’Reilly.

Shortly after Hurricane Maria’s passage, an active search began for a temporary legislative home to meet the needs of the general public.

The Legislature of the Virgin Islands currently operates out of two offices in Christiansted; 1108 King Street and #36-C Strand Street. “Immediately following the hurricanes, we began to explore our options for relocation. We attempted to reach out to the Office of the Governor for assistance. Upon being turned down, our efforts led us to the two properties we have been operating out of since January.”

“When I took office at the beginning of this term, I made a statement regarding the welfare of the employees of this Institution. It did not sit well with the local media and members of our community. I made a commitment to improving the standard of health, and quality of life for our employees on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas.”

“I am reminded of the many locations of the Legislature we leased on Contentment Road and most recently at the Lagoon Street Complex. “It pained us greatly to have to move out of Frederiksted after Hurricane Maria,” he added.

Senate President Jackson noted the ongoing discussions pertaining to the impact of mold, and severe flooding conditions, and sewage issues in Frederiksted. The Members of the 32nd Legislature agreed that it was time to deal with it rather than deferring it to the next Body.

“We are looking forward to new beginnings at our new location, where people can come to the institution and be proud of not just the Senate, but what the building signifies for the community of St. Croix,” O’Reilly concluded.

This has been a long, frustrating road, said Jackson. “We are pleased to announce today that we have secured a safe, habitable working environment for our Staff and look forward to our continued productivity as the First Branch of Government,” concluded Senate President Jackson.

 

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BILL TO EXPAND OPTOMETRISTS TO TREAT GLAUCOMA IN THE VIRGIN ISLANDS MOVES FORWARD

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Health Hospitals and Human Services, chaired by Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, and approved several measures including Bill No. 32-0244- An Act amending title 27, Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1 subchapter VII, section 161 relating to the practice of optometry.

The measure seeks to expand optometrists to treat glaucoma in the Virgin Islands as compared to their counterparts on the U.S. mainland.

Glaucoma is a disease of the eye associated with an elevated ocular pressure that can damage the optic nerve which can lead to loss of vision and irreversible blindness. This disease is highly prevalent among the African American population.

“Previously, the bill excluded optometrist from treating glaucoma. It is important to note that 49 states have expanded the scope of Optometrist except for Massachusetts,” said Sponsor of the Bill Sen. O’Reilly.  “The intent of this legislation does not allow optometrists to do surgery, laser treatment or incisions.”

Lisa Adams, an Optometrist/Member of the Board of Optometrically Examiners, stated that patients would benefit from expanding the availability of providers to treat a high incidence of glaucoma. “By granting this prescriptive authority of therapeutics in the Virgin Islands, it would bring the practice of optometry on par with the nation.”

However, a written testimony submitted by Michelle Davis, Commissioner, for the Virgin Islands Department of Health opposes the legislation and urges lawmakers to “table” the amendment. “The key concern is that any plans to further expand the scope of practice for CTOs must include a fully appointed and active Optometry Board prepared to regulate the scope of any expansion.”

In addition to Bill. No. 32-0244, senators also voted favorably for Bill No. 32-0235-an Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 23, section 415, subsection (b), paragraph (2) subparagraph (B) relating to the composition of the Board of Dental Examiners to authorize of a dental therapist to the board. Sen. O’Reilly is the sponsor of this measure.

“The fact remains that there are 94 licensed dentists and over 100,000 residents who need dental services. The public should have access to their dentists and not be discouraged by long waiting lists,” said Sen. Dwayne DeGraff. “Adding dental therapist is a win-win situation that will benefit the people of the Virgin Islands.”

Sen. Janette Millin Young inquired about the lack of access to dentists. Olutayo Delano, BDS, MS, Chair of the Virgin Islands Board of Dental Examiners stated that there are more than 94 dentists because there are ten offices housing more dentists. The problem is not the lack of dental care access but that patients are not coming in because they pick a provider based on the referral process.

Commissioner Davis stated that she does not support this measure. “It is premature to adopt dental therapy legislation considering that the field is still in development. The Territory has successfully improved access to quality dental care in a variety of ways through licensure and adopting sound proven standards.”

“I don’t understand the pushback,” said Sen. Sammuel Sanes. “Oral hygiene is critical. Poor oral hygiene can lead to a medical diagnosis that is detrimental to the health of a patient. Dental therapists can help streamline the process.”

Separately, the following measures were approved:

  • Bill No. 32-0236-An Act amending Title 27, Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1, subchapter III relating to the practice of dental therapy in the Territory
  • BR No. 32-0247-an Act to provide funding for the establishment of an inpatient mental health facility with supporting resources in the Virgin Islands.
  • Bill No. 32-0245-An Act amending Title 19, Virgin Islands Code part II, chapter 15, section 222 to exempt Urgent Care Facilities from the requirement of getting a certificate of need and mandating that these entities must accept MAP, Medicare, and uninsured patients
  • Bill No. 32-0173-a Resolution honoring and commending the Family Resource Center for its services to victims and families in the U.S. Virgin Islands throughout the years

All bills approved will be forwarded to the Committee on Rules and Judiciary for further consideration.

Senators present are Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Janette Millin Young, Sammuel Sanes, Marvin Blyden, Novelle Francis, and Dwayne M. DeGraff. Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/

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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                                                           ###

 

COMMITTEE UPDATED ON THE STATUS OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN LIEU OF SY 2018-2019

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St. Thomas – The Committee of Education, Youth, and Recreation, chaired by Sen. Jean Forde, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony from officials of the V.I. Department of Education (VIDE), on the status of public schools in preparation for School Year 2018-2019.

“We know that the beginning of the school year is rapidly approaching. Therefore, we want enlightenment on the conditions of the schools and to find solutions if necessary,” said Sen. Forde.

Sharon McCollum, Ph.D., Commissioner of VIDE shared the update. “We established a very aggressive schedule in our efforts to meet SY 2018-2019 opening deadline. To date, FEMA project worksheets totaling $117,941,204 for the Temporary Facilities Project is obligated.”

Thus far, negotiations for temporary and permanent repairs to the schools are ongoing. Commissioner McCollum stated that there are nine schools in the St. Thomas-St. John District that will have temporary repairs in preparation for full-session for the SY 2018-2019. On St. Croix District, temporary maintenance began in seven schools. Additionally, VIDE received $35,000,00 from insurance proceeds allocated by Governor Mapp through the Department of Property and Procurement to fund temporary repairs and temporary facility projects in conjunction with project worksheets approved by FEMA.

Furthermore, Public Schools were combined for a smooth transition from split-session to a full-session. On the St. Thomas-St. John District: a percentage of Glady’s Abraham students and Lockhart Elementary, a portion of Glady’s Abraham students and Ulla F. Muller Elementary School, a percentage of E. Benjamin Oliver students and Joseph Gomez Elementary School students and a percentage of E. Benjamin Oliver students with Yvonne Milliner-Bowsky Elementary School. On the St. Croix District Elena Christian and John Woodson Junior High Schools are combined. Although consolidation was necessary for those schools, there will be thirteen public schools receiving modular and sprung units in preparation for the full session for SY 2018-2019.

However, education leaders Ruby Simmonds Esannason, Carmen Howell, and Glenn Davis expressed opposition to the establishment of 56 modular classrooms on the athletic field and the tennis court at Charlotte Amalie High School stating that athletic programs are in jeopardy.

“This calculated scheme undermines the future of the young athletes,” said Davis. Howell stated that it threatens the critical standard for continued accreditation for the Health and Safety of students because one of the purposes of the field is to function as a viable evacuation site that allows ongoing drills in anticipation of emergencies. “The students will be placed in danger every time a heavy rain causes flooding on the fields,” added Esannason.

Sen. Forde stated that these are legitimate concerns. “However, authorities expressed that it is simply too late. If modular units are relocated, then in the commencement of the upcoming school year classrooms will not be ready on time, and split sessions will continue. The goal is to return students to full-session while repairing permanent school structures.”

Sen. Tregenza Roach said, “These concerns are from people with vast experience in the Education. I hope that the issues raised will not be an even bigger problem later.”

Separately, senators voted to hold in committee: Bill No. 32-0014-An Act amending Title 17 Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 9, section 86 relating to school attendance, absenteeism, and parental responsibility; and Bill No. 32-0203-An Act amending Title 17, Virgin Islands Code, Chapter 3 relating to the permanent closure of public schools.

Senators present are Jean Forde, Kurt Vialet, Novelle Francis, Kurt Vialet, Tregenza Roach, Neville James, and Janelle Sarauw. PHOTOS: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/                            ###

LAWMAKERS VET PETITIONERS ON REZONING REQUESTS

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St. Thomas – The Committee of the Whole led by Senate President Myron Jackson, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony on zoning hearings as it pertains to the JRS Holding, LLC and the V.I. Christian Ministries. Policymakers did not vote on the zoning requests at the meeting today.

Sen. Myron Jackson said, “One of the issues that plague the Territory is the lack of infrastructure and development. There aren’t street lights in place, pedestrian sidewalks to access the medical facilities, public transportation or proper sewage.” He asked, “How can we correct the infrastructure needs of the land use plan?” Matthew Laplace, the Territorial Planner for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR), stated at this time, development is limited. Government agencies must collaborate to build the infrastructure.

The petition seeks to amend the Official Zoning Map No. STZ-7 from R-2 (Residential-Low Density One and Two Family) to B-1 (Business-Central- Business District) for Parcel No. 48 Estate Thomas, No. 6A New Quarter, St. Thomas. The applicant’s proposed use is to create a mixed-use development consisting of medical offices, retail, a wellness center, and residential units for primarily short-term patients seeking medical treatment.

The Ensemble Complex is a three-story commercial complex housing medical practices, a wellness center, physical rehabilitation facilities, pharmacies, office spaces, and retail. The application seeks to change the current zoning category from residential to a central business district. With a recommendation from Dawn Henry, Commissioner of DPNR, to have the entrance and road access expanded to accommodate commercial use.

In a written testimony submitted to the Senate, Petitioner Jerry Smith, MD stated that this facility seeks to provide a high-traffic commercial trade center that offers a cohesive environment where medical, professional, and retail entities can thrive, grow and more conveniently serve the consumers of a variety of services.

Although lawmakers expressed support for the rezoning request, they addressed their concerns. “My concern is that if the drainage is unproperly built, it can cause flooding to residents in the area,” said Sen. Janelle Sarauw. In response, Laplace stated that the applicant is required to meet DPNR standards for building the drainage. The applicant must submit engineering plans to DPNR before the start of the project.

“Will the road project be completed before building the establishment?” Sen. Jean Forde questioned. Attorney Joseph Caines, Attorney of the Law Office of Joseph Caines representing

Dr. Smith stated that the construction of the road may or shall be done either before or during the development of the first phase of The Ensemble Complex.

Sen. Novelle Francis inquired of who is fiscally responsible for expanding the roads from one lane to two lanes. Laplace said, “The cost for the road expansion is the responsibility of the petitioner.” Sen. Francis further asked, “Is all of the funding in place?” In response, Attorney Caines stated that not all the funding is in place for development, because it is a multi-million-dollar project. However, my client is confident that he will obtain financing to widen the road on an easement.”

Sen. Brian Smith shared his remarks on the zoning application. “Comparatively to neighboring islands, the Virgin Islands needs more business development. Sometimes we hold back development, and this occurred for over twenty years. It is time to move forward by supporting business ventures.”

Separately, policymakers also considered the following: Report on Petition to Amend Official Zoning Map No. STZ-7-Application No. ZAT-18-1 a petition of VI Christian Ministries (authorized agent, Attorney Jennifer Jones) requesting use variances to the R-1 (Residential-Low Density zoned Parcel No. 105 Remainder Estate Bolongo Bay, No.3 Frenchman’s Bay Quarter, St. Thomas. The purpose of the request is to allow for office and storage use. The proposed method is to convert the former bowling alley to offices and storage.

Based on the report of Dawn Henry, Commissioner of DPNR, the public opposed the rezoning request because of the effects of traffic, pollution, sound and a possible increase in flooding. Sen. Tregenza Roach asked, “Considering that there aren’t any structural changes to the property, how accurate are these concerns?”  Well, some concerns did not have anything to do with the property or the project stated Attorney Jennifer Jones, Authorized Agent of the Property. “People like to create a problem in their mind that doesn’t exist,” said Sen. Smith.

Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media

 

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“I AM QUEEN MARY” PUBLIC ART PROJECT

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ST. THOMAS- The Office of Senator Myron Jackson, hosted the “I am Queen Mary: A Monument of a Rebel Queen Challenges Denmark’s Colonial Past.” The Public Art Project by Danish Artist Janette Ehlers and U.S. Virgin Islands Artist La Vaughn Belle held at the Capitol Building on Monday; is a significant part of Denmark’s colonial impact in the Virgin Islands and throughout the Caribbean.

“It is important us to understand the creativity of our artists and how it shapes history. This project represents 500 years of the history of the United States Virgin Islands. Today, there are images in public spaces including the Legislature. Each image is symbolic of the struggles, dignity, and strength of our people,” said Sen. Jackson.

The two artists collaborated to memorialize Queen Mary by creating a sculpture of her sitting in a peacock chair also known as a colonial chair while holding a torch and a whip in her hand. The statue of Queen Mary resembles power and strength. The concept of the sculpture connects to other resistance movements that occurred before Queen Mary and up to the present time.

Similarly, La Vaughn stated that the “I am Queen Mary” is significant because it connects to other movements in the African Diaspora that occurred many years later.

“This project resembles black lives matter which was started by three women. This resemblance is interesting to know because Queen Mary is a symbol. She has become a myth since there is not a lot of historical information on her. On St. Croix, she is a famous heroine. In Denmark, it appeared that the people had colonel amnesia. However, the people of color in Denmark began to see their relationship to this sculpture,” said La Vaughn.

Ehlers also shared her remarks.

“98% of public sculptures in Denmark are representing white males. It was challenging to have a space for black people where they positively see themselves. This statue represents injustice and the fight for freedom,” said Ehlers.

The proposed legislation supporting art in public spaces is An Act amending V.I Code title 3, chapter 5 adding subchapter III to enact The Virgin Islands Public Art Program requiring one percent of total capital improvement project costs expended for works of art placed in public buildings. Sen. Myron Jackson proposed this measure.

“What will the statue do for our future?” asked an event-goer. “This is our contribution to highlighting black culture and history. We encourage you to develop a curriculum, and we offer our support,” said Ehlers.

Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                           ###   

V.I. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION REQUESTS $172,209,001 FOR FY 2019

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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 V.I. Department of Education (VIDOE), the Career of Technical Education and, the Bureau of Internal Revenue on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget appropriations.

The governor’s recommended budget for VIDOE is $172,209,001. In comparison to the appropriation for FY 2018, this is an increase of $5,158,171. The financial breakdown is as follows: $102,531,874 for personnel services, $45,987,889 for fringe benefits, $3,998,910 for supplies, $13,200,328 for other services and charges, and $6,500,000 for utilities. “The primary areas impacted by the increase mentioned above are salary increases for the proposed bargaining unions,” said Commissioner of Education Ann McCollum.

“Can you explain the increase of personnel services?” asked Sen. Jean Forde. Gerda Sebastian, Director of Business Affairs and Budget Control stated that $1,000,000 is for vacant positions, $10,000,000 for contractual negotiations, $1,800,000 to fund the Substitute Teacher Pool, $6,158,276 for exempt positions and $83,573,5898 for classified positions. “The recommended budget allows VIDOE to maintain its current staffing level of 2,195 employees,” added Commissioner McCollum.

“Who determined the figures of $10,000,000 for contractual services?” asked Sen. Vialet. Commissioner McCollum stated that the Office of Management and Budget and the Chief Negotiator projected the numbers for FY 2019 for contractual services. Then Sen. Vialet inquired of the role of Witt O’Brien with VIDOE. Thomas Allen, Chief of Staff of VIDOE, stated that Witt O’Brien had provided hurricane disaster relief estimated at $150,000,000 to assist VIDOE throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Territory-wide, there was a total of 1,471,676 school lunches distributed through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and 503,073 breakfasts served through the School Breakfast Program (SBP) in the School Year 2017-2018. The combined reimbursements for SY 2016-2017 was $4,918,989.86. However, VIDOE experienced a decline in reimbursement for SY 2017-2018.

“Why is there a significant reduction in reimbursement for School Year 2017-2018?” inquired Marvin Blyden. Commissioner McCollum said, “The NSLP and the SBP have earned a combined reimbursement value of $1,673,143.47. The reimbursement loss of $3,245,846.39 is because of the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria; which has also adversely affected student enrollment.”

Separately, the Virgin Islands Career and Technical Education Board (CTEB) shared the FY 2019 recommended budget. Ilene Garner, Chair of CTEB stated that the governor’s recommended budget for FY 2019 is $509,350. The funds include $55,000 for textbooks, $45,000 for the National and Local Travel for students and $35,000 for teacher and professional development. “Technical programs are rapidly changing and becoming more complex. To ensure that our students are prepared to compete, they must stay on the cutting edge of existing and emerging technologies,” said Garner.

Similarly, Marvin Pickering, Director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue shared the governor’s recommended budget for FY 2019 totaling $12,578,546. The budget breakdown is as follows: $6,777,230 for personnel services, $3,027,688 for fringe benefits, $82,500 for supplies, $2,275,128 for other services and charges, $100,000 for capital outlays, $235,587 for communication and $316,000 for utilities.

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

BILLS TO UPDATE TERRITORY’S INSURANCE CODE WITH INSURANCE COMPANIES MOVES FORWARD

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St. Thomas – The Committee on Rules and Judiciary, chaired by Sen. Novelle Francis, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Thursday, to vote favorably on three bills that updates the Territory’s Insurance Code with insurance companies in the mainland and to gain National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Accreditation.

The measures are Bill No. 32-0233-to provide for an annual audit and financial reporting to meet the accreditation standards established by NAIC and to update Insurance laws; Bill No. 32-0232- as it relates to life and health insurance agreements; and Bill No. 32-0234- to enact the Property and Casualty Actuarial Opinion Act to meet the accreditation standards established by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in its model laws to update the Insurance Laws of the Territory.

“The bills ensure the financial solvency of insurance companies. In accordance to Lieutenant Governor Potter, 75% of properties were closed, and the payout from insurance companies were over $2 million. The bills also bring the Territory up to date with accreditation with the NAIC,” said Sen. Francis

The standards of NAIC Accreditation Program requires state and territorial insurance departments to have adequate statutory and administrative authority to regulate insurer’s corporate and financial affairs. NAIC ensures active company financial solvency and regulation.

“This is just a few of the many bills to ensure the Office of the Governor Division of Banking, Insurance and Financial Regulation for the Virgin Islands have the same laws and standards as major insurance companies nationwide, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico,” said Sponsor of the Bills Sen. Kurt Vialet. “This is a unique opportunity to update laws created since 1968.”

Amendment to Bill No. 32-0234, offered by the Sen. Vialet, has several provisions to include (a) Title 22, sections 1054,1055 and 1056 as enacted in section 2 of this act take effect December 31 of the first full calendar year following the enactment of this act; and (2) Title 22, section 1057 and 1058 take effect sixty days after the enactment.

Sen. Sammuel Sanes stated that his primary concern is that once the bills enacted into law, implementation of them will not take place. “These are all excellent bills. Since there is a lack of staff across all government departments and agencies, the implementation may be an issue.”

 

All bills approved will be forwarded to the Full Body for further consideration. Senators present are Novelle Francis, Positive Nelson, Sammuel Sanes, Jean Forde, Kurt Vialet and Myron Jackson, Janette Millin Young. Access photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media/                                                                     ###

V.I. DIVISION OF PERSONNEL REQUESTS $42,452,580 FOR FISCAL YEAR 2019

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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 the V.I. Division of Personnel (DOP) and the Dept. of Public Works on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget appropriations.

The Governor’s recommended FY 2019 budget for the Division of Personnel total $42,452,580. Divided into two categories are $41,905,465 for the General Fund and $547,115 for the Indirect Cost Fund. The General Fund breakdown is as follows: $1,931,387 for personnel services, $5,000 capital outlays, $804,136 for fringe benefits, $39,524 supplies, $38,984,618 for other services and charges, $140,800. The Indirect Cost Fund breakdown consists of $373,606 for the personnel services, $149,689 for fringe benefits, $2400 for supplies and $21,420 for other services and charges.

“Can you expound on why there is a significant increase in the General Fund for FY 2019?” asked Sen. Kurt Vialet. Milton Potter, Director of the DOP, said, “In this year’s budget the appropriations are higher because items normally carried under the Miscellaneous Fund is now a part of the General Fund budget.”

Sen. Tregenza Roach stated that according to the Post Audit Report, in the miscellaneous section of the General Fund there is $275,000 for administrative expenses as it relates to the Health Insurance Board. In response, Maureen Venzen, Chief Group Health Insurance for DOP said, “The monies cover stipends, travel, and training of board members. A portion of the funds is allocated for contractual services as well. The board does not have employees.”

As it relates to the Group Health Insurance, thus far, DOP has paid $102,027,226.74 in healthcare premiums. The Government’s portion is $66,317,697.38 and Employees/Retiree share is $35,709,529.36. The total participants in the insurance plan are 13,763 to include government employees and retirees’ territory-wide. “Annually government employees have to take the Health Risk Assessment. Are negotiations completed for the request for proposal (RFP) for a carrier?” inquired Sen. Vialet. Director Potter stated that DOP is finalizing the contractual process and is hoping to complete this by August 2018.

Similarly, the Department of Public Works (DPW) shared the FY 2019 budget. Nelson Petty Jr., Commissioner of DPW, stated that the governor’s recommended budget is $18,550,536 this is an increase in comparison to FY 2018 budget of $18,260,536. Additional monies that DPW will receive are $500,000 from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund, $300,000 from the Tourism Revolving Fund, $1,000,000 from the Anti-Litter Fund and an estimated $17,165,215 in Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Tregenza Roach, Dwayne DeGraff, Neville James, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Jean Forde, Myron Jackson, Novelle Francis and Marvin Blyden. Photos: http://www.legvi.org/committeemeetings/Media                                                                ### 

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