Category: Senator Kurt A. Vialet

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                                                           ###

 

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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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                                                           ###

 

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                                                           ###

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                                                                ### 

V.I. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REQUESTS $422,493,985 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. Department of Justice and the Public Service Commission on the Fiscal Year 2019 budget appropriations.

Governor Kenneth Mapp’s recommended budget for the Department of Justice totals $22,493,985. The budget breakdown is as follows: $15,209,397 from the General Fund, $805,000 from the Miscellaneous Section and $6,497,588 from non-appropriated Federal Funds. “Are the federal grants appropriately utilized?” inquired Sen. Marvin Blyden. The Dept. of Justice Chief Financial Officer Kaj Williams stated that all federal grants are expended appropriately.

“The Post Audit Report states that telecommunication services are $85,244. Please explain,” said Sen. Kurt Vialet. CFO Williams stated that the Dept. has an outstanding balance of $15,000 for telecommunication services. The remaining balance covers telecommunication expenses for the rest of FY 2019. Sen. Vialet inquired about the rising costs of utilities from $157,000 as of March 30th to $314,000 by the end of FY 2019. CFO Williams stated that the Department is relocating to a new building on St. Croix and the utility cost may increase.

The Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) paid claimants and plaintiffs for litigation and administrative tort claims. The total amount of settlements paid out of the Judgement Fund is $340,672.58. Currently, there has $207,739.68 paid out from over $25,000 Judgement Fund; $100,928.79 from the under $25,000 Judgement Fund; and $32, 004.11 from the Administrative Tort Claim Fund stated Joseph Ponteen, V.I. Chief Deputy Attorney General of the Dept. of Justice.

Similarly, the Department’s Medical Malpractice Review Unit has a total of 91 open cases. Thus far, there are 14 cases closed with settlements totaling $1,333,000. “Are the physicians required to pay or is it only the responsibility of GVI?” asked Sen. Nereida Rivera O’Reilly. Chief Ponteen said, “Medical practices are expected to pay the insurance companies for medical malpractice. Meanwhile, GVI is responsible for covering the balance of the settlements to the plaintiffs.”

Separately, the Virgin Islands Public Service Commission (PSC) shared their FY 2019 budget. Donald Cole, Executive Director of PSC, stated that the governor’s recommended budget is $1,779,975.45. Comparatively, this is a $2,108.93 reduction from the FY 2018 appropriation. Currently, PSC is operating from the 2017 revenue assessment of $1,782,084.37.

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

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