Category: Senator Kurt A. Vialet

V.I. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE REQUESTS $422,493,985 FOR FISCAL YEAR 2019

Download PDF

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                                                       ### 

GOVERNMENT AGENCIES GET BUDGET CUTS

Download PDF

ST. CROIX- The Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet held a budget hearing on Thursday at the University of the Virgin Islands Great Hall, St. Croix with several government agencies. The agencies were V.I. Fire Services (VIFS); V.I. Police Department (VIPD); V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA; and Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC).

Testifying for VIPD, Commission Delroy Richards said the Fiscal Year 2019 recommended budget for VIPD is $63.6 million. The General Fund appropriation is $60,551,208 which represents a decrease of $2,531,208 from the 2018 appropriation of $63,082,416.

Comm. Richards told committee members that Consent Decree budget is $1,867,562 and miscellaneous appropriation total to $325, 000. According to him, VIPD is expected to receive approximately $2,147,833 in federal funds for the Fiscal Year 2019.

In respect to the increased in entry-level pay increases, Comm. Richards said that in May, VIPD increased entry-level salary from $30,000 to $40,000 and police academy recruit pay from $27,00 to $30,000. He added that all officers with salaries below $40,953 (about 70-percent) will have their salaries increased to the baseline of $40,953.

VITEMA Director Mona Barnes said its Fiscal Year 2019 proposed budget is $18,200,294 it consists of $5,183,178 in appropriated funds and $13,017,116 in non-appropriated funds. According to the Director, the agency is expected to receive approximately $12,410,288 in federal funds.

Regarding the 911 system, Barnes told committee members that VITEMA requested $606,000 from the Emergency Services Fund to take care of equipment repairs and training for Emergency Call Centers operators. Furthermore, some of the money will be used to transition 911 centers to “next Generation 911 centers which, she added will be a more efficient and “self-effective “digital system.”

Franz Christian, Director of LEPC said the agency’s recommended operating budget for the Fiscal Year 2019 is $801,153. The FY2019 budget shows a 12.5-percent reduction of the fiscal year 2018 budget amounting to $114,449. He added that the General Fund budget contains salaries, fringe benefits, other services and utilities such as ret, telephone, inter-island travel, vehicle, and fuel costs.

Christian said in FY17, LEPC was able to secure approximately $2,487,690 in federal funds from Fy2017 Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP); Juvenile Justice Prison Rape Elimination Act (JJPREA); Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA); Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Grant (RSAT); Victims of Crime Assistance Grant (VOCA); and Violence Against Women STOP Grant (VAWA). To date, added Christian, for FY18 LEPC has applied for approximately $2,423,253 in federal funds.

V.I. Fire Service Director (VIFS), Clifford Joseph, said the agency’s total recommended operating budget for FY2019 is $21,121,447. Out of this, the General Fund appropriation is $18,934,637. According to him, 98-percent of this will be allocated to personnel costs and the rest mandatory costs such as rent, utilities, travel, and communications.

According to Joseph, the agency operates and or provide support to 11 fire stations throughout the territory and employs 282 personnel. Each employee is assigned to one of the agency’s three operational units. These units are the Suppression unit, the Arson Investigation and Prevention Unit and the Administrative Unit.

Committee members at Thursday’s Budget hearing were Chairman Senator Kurt A. Vialet, Marvin A. Blyden, Neville A. James, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Brian A. Smith, Tregenza A. Roach, and Dwayne M. DeGraff. Non-Committee member was senator Novelle Francis, Jr.

###

FHC PRAISED FOR SERVICE AND DLC BUDGET DECREASED

Download PDF

ST. CROIX- The Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet held a budget hearing on Tuesday in University of the Virgin Islands Great Hall. Testifying before the Committee members were the Frederiksted Health Care, Inc., (FHC) and the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs(DLC).
Masserae Sprauve Webster, Chief Executive Director FHC received decreases from the local allotment. In FY 2017, FHC did not receive $185,425.00 of their allotment fund. According to her FHC receive 12.5% cut which amounted to $286,740. This represents a loss of $472,165., which in her estimation resulted in the inability to fully respond to health care needs of the community.
Webster said FHC is requesting a local funding allotment for FY2019 in the amount of $2,640, oo0. To keep up with rising costs, respond to increasing demand for their services and to assist with the delivery of care to their vulnerable patients.
She pointed certain notable items that FHC provided to the community such as; (1) provided services to 8,634 patients and had 25,052 encounters in 2015; provided services to 9,551 patients and had 28,432 encounters in 2016; provided services to 9,914 patients and had 29,562 encounters in 2017; and expects to service 30,000 encounters in 2018 and 33,000 encounters in 2019.
Committee members praised and commended FHC for their commitment and dedicated services to the community by providing such services as (1) providing care to 180 homeless individuals and have housed 40 them in permanent housing; (2) since Hurricane Maria, began offering services on Saturdays at the Ingeborg Nesbitt site and continues to offer each Saturday from 9a.m. to 2p.m; in January 2018 acquired an additional satellite site in Mid-island located at Sion farm commercial center; and on March 23 and 24 2018 expand dental care to meet the needs of the community because FHC continues to be the only public dental provider.
Webster told Committee Members that their outreach efforts have become more focused on critical at-risk populations, and as a result, they have had several people who were newly diagnosed as HIV positive. They know, she added that the HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to hit the island hard, and they remain dedicated to addressing the prevention strategies that are necessary by working with young people and adults to be more responsible with their sexual health.
In respect to the homeless, Webster stated that FGC provides medical, dental and behavioral services to homeless individuals; meals, baths, clothing, shoes, and haircuts are offered to those who attend. Furthermore, each clinic has served about 35 homeless individuals and each month about 25 are follow-up patients and usually, they serve 10 new patients.
According to her FHC has partnered with several business owners to make condoms accessible. They have 80 condom dispensers in 60 sites and distributed over 125,000 condoms to local bars and restaurants each year. Webster said FHC has sought and continue to seek additional funding through grant applications as they become available. Other testifiers for FHC were Jacquelyn Rhymer-George, Chief Financial Officer and Stanley Jones, FHC’s Board Treasurer.
Devin Carrington, Commissioner, Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs (DLC) said Appropriation from the General Fund for 2017 Expenditure was $3,228,734 and that appropriation recommended for 2018 and 2019 respectively were $3,831,510 and 3,473,276. This he added, came to a reduction of approximately $358,234.
According to the Commissioner, most recently, DLC collected a substantial fine from K-Mart Corporation pertaining to price labeling. They also settled a case of price gouging at the Pueblo Supermarkets in St. Croix and St. Thomas where customers charged prices for batteries that were more than the submitted price list. Furthermore, they are in the process of revoking the license of a charter boat operator that charged excessive prices for services between St. Thomas, St. Croix and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Carrington added that DLC is moving ahead with its plan for the rehabilitation of the Vendors Plaza in downtown Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas and is implementing its plan to provide more robust staffing in St. John.
Other testifiers for DLC were Frederick, General Counsel, Horace Graham, Director Division of license, Joycelyn McFarlande Manager; Administrative Services, Nathalie Hodge, Assistant Commissioner, Ann O’Neil District Counsel, and K’wanda Daniels, Executive Officer to the Commissioner.
Committee members at Tuesday’s budget hearing were Chairman Senator Kurt A. Vialet, Neville A. James, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Brian A. Smith, Tregenza A. Roach, Marvin A. Blyden, and Dwayne M. DeGraff. Non-Committee Members were Senators, Positive T.A. Nelson, and Janelle K. Sarauw.

###

COMMITTEE UPDATED ON THE HURRICANE RECOVERY PHASES, PROJECTS AND TIMELINES

Download PDF

St. Thomas – The Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, to receive an update post-Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria on entities administered to assist with the hurricane recovery phases of the Government of the Virgin Islands to include projects and timelines.

“This is not a budget hearing. This meeting is about the hurricane recovery process. The public consistently has inquiries concerning the entities hired by the Government of the Virgin Islands (GVI) and what their roles are in the Territory,” said Sen. Vialet.

V.I. Public Finance Authority Executive Director Valdamier Collens shared the update. Witt O’Brien’s and Ernst & Young are the leading firms partnering with GVI to assist with the hurricane recovery process.

The primary responsibility of Witt O’Brien’s are program management and implementation of FEMA’s Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs such as HUD’s Community Development Block Grant and the Disaster Recovery Program. Thus far, Witt O’Brien has developed damage description, scopes of work, and the creation of project worksheets and Hazard Mitigation Grant application Territory-wide. Short terms tasks include WAPA debris removal, Sheltering Temporary Essential Power Program and the HUD Community Block Grant.

Ernst & Young, tasked with assisting GVI with compliance, monitoring, oversight and transparency for Key Grant Programs such as FEMA Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Programs; monitoring FEMA Community Disaster Loans and Commercial Insurance Claims. Some of their assignments include assisting V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) with addressing public assistance assignment for GVI applicants and private non-profit applicants. As of May 26, 2018, 237, project worksheets are totaling $1,055,057,798.30 that is funded by FEMA.

The timetable for completion of worksheets and target dates are currently unknown due to challenges such as cost estimates, developing scopes of work and finalizing worksheets due to administrative appeals. Completed projects should occur within 18 months of the start date. However, GVI can request an extension if necessary; according to Executive Director Collens.

“There are a lot of project worksheets that are going through VITEMA. I don’t believe that VITEMA is sufficiently staffed to review all of them promptly. Many of the small businesses are unable to sustain themselves without payment for their services,” said Sen. Marvin Blyden.

Similarly, Domingo Camarano, Vice President, AECOM shared an update on Emergency Home Repairs VI Program (EHRVI). To date, there are 1900 repaired homes. There are 10,000 applicants and 7,400 households eligible for repairs. “Hurricane season is upon us, how many homes out of the 10,000 are already completed?” asked Sen. Janelle Sarauw. Vice President Camarano stated that there are 1500 repaired homes with 5,000 more to be completed by the August 15, 2018 deadline.

“Considering that the deadline is in two months, what is the weekly average of completed home repairs?” inquired Sen. Blyden. In response Darryl Griffith, Executive Director, V.I. Housing Authority stated that there are 50 completed homes per week.

The value of AECOM’s contract is $186.6 million. Invoices were sent and reviewed by Witt O’Brien’s, Ernst & Young and others.  However, the FEMA-funded program has yet to receive payment for their services stated Vice President Camarano.  “Payments seems to be delayed because the federal guidelines are not designed to meet structural needs of homes built in the Virgin Islands.  Sheetrock, cleaning or repairing cisterns, and replacing downspouts are construction repairs that are heavily needed for the homes Territory-wide,” said Sen. Vialet.

Executive Director Griffith shared the financial breakdown of EHRVI funded through a FEMA Progress Worksheet (PW).  The first PW totals $186,650,000; this covers construction for in-home repairs. FEMA obligated the funds, and it is currently available. The second PW totals $152,899,348. This PW covers construction management, mobility, a call center, insurance, and program management. However, the monies were not obligated.

Separately, lawmakers received testimony on the Lease Agreement between the Government of the Virgin Islands, acting through the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement(“Lessor”) and Industrious Auto Repair, Inc. (“Lessee”).

Vincent Richards, Deputy Commissioner of Property and Printing Divisions of the Virgin Islands Department of Property and Procurement, shared the update. The lease agreement is for 20 years and is effective upon the approval of Governor Kenneth Mapp and the Legislature of the Virgin Islands. There will be an annual rent of $28,000 initially and is payable through monthly installments of $2,400. The terms of the lease include allowing a long-term tenant to invest and restore a government property damaged after Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria and to expand existing operations.

Senators present are Kurt Vialet, Brian Smith, Marvin Blyden, Jean Forde, Tregenza Roach, Dwayne DeGraff, Janelle Sarauw, Novelle Francis and Positive Nelson.

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

SENATORS PLAN TO RECOMMEND STRUCTURAL CHANGES TO FISCAL YEAR 2019 PROPOSED BUDGET

Download PDF

ST. THOMAS– The Committee on Finance, chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, convened at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on Tuesday to receive testimony from Governor Mapp’s Financial Team regarding the Overview of the Fiscal Year 2019 Proposed Executive Budget.

The Director of the Office of Management & Budget, Julio A. Rhymer, noted that with the assistance of the Federal Government and billions of dollars approved for the territory, the budget amount; $1.278 billion, reflects a sustainable balanced budget that includes a five-year forecast to provide fiscal guidance. It is funded by $851.34 million in local funds and $238.66 million in federal funds. The budget outlay includes $150 million in debt service payments and $38 million in income tax refunds.

Chairman Vialet commended the Financial Team on their efforts to address parts of their unfunded liability under GERS and that the infusion of money included in the proposed budget is $10 million more than usually received. He also stated the $131.69 million projected in new revenues were well justified in the documents submitted although, “There will be challenges trying to pass a budget without all collective bargaining agreements in place. If we cannot achieve a final cost before September, supplemental appropriations can be made for the Fiscal Year 2019 budget.”

“The increase in funding presented must include a combination of austerity measures and creativity applied when considering the reassignment of our workforce. Entities such as the Bureau of Economic research should be placed under the Office of Management and Budget,” said the Chairman.

Chief Negotiator Tang-How stated though contract negotiations are ongoing, their bottom-line figure of $14 million is developed, adjusted and reviewed in collaboration with OMB to ensure accuracy. Members present agreed that further clarification and reports on those figures will be requested through the Chair.

The Governor proposed to address outstanding employer contributions to GERS with an additional 3% in its employer contributions; 20.5 to 23.5%, over the next three years and increase the benefits of retirement to $75,000. Through the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, the GVI also plans to acquire 290 acres (170 on St. Croix; 120 on St. Thomas) of non-performing assets from the retirement system to continue the $7 million annual contributions from the Matching Funds Revenues.

The Fiscal Year 2019 general fund expenditure budget request allocated $639 million to the executive branch departments and agencies. Majority Leader Neville James questioned the decision to reduce some allocations while boldly increasing others. He expressed his concern on the focus in creating this budget calling the reduction of $1 million in the Legislative and Judicial branches unfortunate. Sen. Janelle Sarauw asked if there were any plans considered to restore the 8% pay cut. Commission Collens replied, “My understanding as the law is written, we can begin to accumulate those funds; roughly $65 to $68 million owed, in 2021 by utilizing the Environmental Impact Fee.”

The members of the Governor’s Financial team present during today’s testimony: Valdamier Collens, Commissioner of the Dept. of Finance; Marvin Pickering, Director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; Ira Mills, Tax Assessor; Office of the Lt. Governor; Attorney Natalie Tang-How, Chief Negotiator of the Office of Collective Bargaining; and Milton Potter, Director of the Division of Personnel.

Committee members present during today’s hearing: Senators Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Neville James, Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, Brian Smith, Tregenza Roach and Dwayne DeGraff. Non-committee members present include Senators Jean Forde, Novelle Francis, Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Myron D. Jackson, Janette Millin-Young, Positive Nelson and Janelle Sarauw.

“As we continue this process, I encourage my colleagues and representatives from all agencies to consider measures that will make our government more efficient,” concluded Chairman Vialet.

The Committee on Finance will convene today at 9:30 a.m. in the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall on St. Thomas to receive testimony on: The status of programs administered in the territory post hurricanes, the recovery phase and BR17-0719; Lease Agreement between the GVI, acting through the Commissioner of the Department of Property and Procurement(“Lessor”) and Industrious Auto Repair, Inc. (“Lessee”).

###

LIMETREE BAY TERMINALS, LLC ARGUES FOR MAJOR CZM PERMIT

Download PDF

ST. CROIX--The Committee of the Whole, chaired by Senate President Myron D. Jackson, met on Wednesday in the Virgin Islands Cardiac Center of the Governor Juan F. Luis Hospital and Medical Center where testimony was given on a Major Coastal Zone Management Permit.

Senators heard from several Limetree Bay Terminals L.L.C. management Executives regarding Major CZM Permit CZX-29-17 for a Single Point Mooring (SPM) to be constructed on the south of St. Croix. The project’s activities will be specifically located seaward of Limetree Bay Terminals, LLC Terminal Plot No. 9 Reclaimed Land, Christiansted.

In his testimony, Jason Gleason, Maine Terminal Pilot and Captain for Limetree Bay Terminals, said as Lead Superintendent in the Marine Department and Project Lead on the SPM Project, Very Large Crude Carriers (VLCCs) are some of the largest vessels in the world often over 1100ft long and 200ft, wide and may have a draft of over 700ft.

He added that historically to call on St. Croix, a VLCC would need to be roughly half loaded, and so, this project will enable their customers to transport crude to and from the facility in full loaded VLCC, offering a much more efficient operation.

According to Gleason, the Limetree Bay SPM will transfer crude oil to and from the facility and with the upgraded crude pumps completed last year, they can load out at approximately 45,000 barrels per hour. He pointed out that, the SPM project has been designed to Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF); United States Coast Guard (USCG) and American Bureau #56 King Street, Hamilton House, Christiansted, St. Croix 00820 340-773-2424, Fax: 340-712-2397, E-mail: publicaffairs@legvi.org of Shipping (ABS) standard. Furthermore, the entire system is designed to withstand the extreme conditions often found in in the Caribbean region.

Senators, who expressed their concerns as they relate to the project’s impact on the ecosystem, was given assurance by Gleason that after an extensive environmental assessment and re-routing of the project to minimize environmental impact, it was determined that a few corals were still in the pathway of the project.

According to him, these corals will be transplanted well clear of the project by their environmental contractor, Bio Impact. They will also be constructing a man-made reef to provide additional habitat where some of the coral will be transplanted on both the south and north shores of St. Croix in areas already approved by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR).

Gleason added that during construction, Bio Impact will be monitoring for turbidity, the effect on wildlife, and any other issues. Moreover, Bioimpact will stop the work immediately if any issues arise, and that they will work with DPNR and the federal government to remedy prior to resumption of construction.

In respect to local employment, Gleason told Senators that many of the materials to construct have been procured and delivered to St. Croix, and with the ratification by the legislature, they will commence construction as soon as possible. The construction phase, he added, will result in employment for laborers, concrete workers, welders, inspectors and painters on St. Croix.

Other testifiers for Limetree Bay Terminals were: Joyce Wakefield, Environmental Specialist; Amy Dempsey, President of Bio Impact; and Jeff Gorman, Engineer, Lloyds Engineers. Senators at Wednesday’s Committee of Whole Hearing were: Senate President, Myron D. Jackson, Vice-President, Rivera-O’Reilly, Jean A. Forde, Neville A. James, Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, Positive T.A. Nelson, Tregenza A. Roach, Sammuel Sanes, Janelle K. Sarauw, Brian A. Smith, and Kurt A. Vialet.

###

LAWMAKERS APPROVE NOMINEES, CZM AND ZONING REQUESTS DURING LEGISLATIVE SESSION

Download PDF

ST. THOMAS– On Wednesday, Members of the 32nd Legislature, convened in Legislative Session at the Capitol Building. Led by Senate President Myron Jackson, the Body considered zoning requests, CZM permits and several measures.

The meeting began with the consideration of the following Nominees:

  • Nelson Petty, Jr.– Commissioner, Dept. of Public Works
  • Elizabeth Armstrong (Reappointment)– Member, WAPA Authority Board (STX)
  • Stacy Bourne– Member, VI Casino Control Commission (STT/STJ)
  • Hubert Turnbull– Member, WAPA Authority Board (STT/STJ)
  • Julio Rhymer, Sr.– Director, Office of Management & Budget (OMB)
  • John A. Quelch– Member, University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees (STX)
  • Dina Perry-Malone– Member, VI Housing Authority Board of Commissioners (STT/STJ)

All Nominees were approved, however, Senators shared their concerns regarding their nominations and current issues in their respective agencies. “Our margin for error is minute,” Sen. DeGraff expressed. After thanking the Body, Nelson Petty, Jr., updated the Body on the status of Capital projects in the territory. “My focus has been on our capital projects and I am pleased to report three projects on St. Croix currently in the procurement phase and on St. Thomas, preconstruction began yesterday with the Veterans Drive project”.

The second block of the meeting considered the following Coastal Zone Management Permits and Zoning requests:

  • Bill No. 32-0153 – An Act ratifying the Governor’s approval of Minor Coastal Zone Permit No. CZJ-20-11W issued to David McDaniel and Cheryl McDaniel. The permit was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0154 – An Act ratifying Major Coastal Zone Permit No. CZT-2-16 (L&W) issued to DUN RUN GOLF, LLC, for the continued use and occupancy of the existing reverse osmosis plant with 12” diameter, 140 feet intake line and 12-inch, 650 feet long outfall line located at Plot No. C-2-Q Estate Lovenlund, St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The permit was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0142 – An Act to rezone Parcel No. 13AA Estate Contant, No. 2 Cruz Bay Quarter St. John from R-2 (Residential-Low Density-One and Two Family) to R-4 (Residential-Medium Density). The zoning request was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0181 – An Act granting a zoning use variance for Parcel No. 171 Estate Contant-Enighed, Cruz Bay, St. John Virgin Islands, to allow for the operation of a car rental business. The zoning request was passed and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0182 – An Act to rezone Parcel No. 4-A Estate Cruz Bay Town, Cruz Bay Quarter, St. John, from B-3 (Business-Scattered) to B2 (Business-Secondary/Neighborhood). The zoning request was approved as adapted and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0187 – An Act rezoning Parcel No. 6D Estate Thomas, New Quarter, St. Thomas from R-3 (Residential-Medium Density) to B-2 (Business-Secondary Neighborhood) and from the B-2 zoning designation granting a use variance. The zoning request passed in its original format and forwarded to the Governor.

“We make a way for the big businesses, but not for the small players. We need to show them that we are sensitive to the small businesses, families,  and individuals trying to establish wealth,” stated Non-Majority Leader, Sen. Positive T.A. Nelson. Similar comments were expressed by the members of the Body after two zoning requests were removed from the agenda during the 2nd block.

 

The following bills were considered after press time:

 

  • Bill No. 32-0168–An Act amending Title 22 VI Code, Chapter 39, designating current sections 951 through 983 subchapterI, Section 984 as Subchapter II, and by adding a subchapter III entitled, “The Standard Forfeiture Law of 2018 for Life Insurance,” which meets the accreditation in its model laws and updates the insurance laws of the Virgin Islands of the United States placing them on par with other United States jurisdictions thereby affording greater and more effective protection to the policyholders in the Virgin Islands. Sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0065–An Act to appropriate the sum of $500,000 to the Economic Development Authority for “energy efficient” retrofitting of the Industrial Park on the island of St. Croix. Sponsored by Sen. Neville James, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0178–A Resolution to honor to commend the ALL HANDS and HEART-SMART RESPONSE. Proposed by Sen. Jean Forde, the measure was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0188–An Act appropriating $3,500,000 from the St. Croix Capital Improvement Fund for maintenance dredging of the Schooner Bay Channel. The measure, sponsored by Senators Kurt Vialetand Alicia “Chucky” Hansen, was approved and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0147–An Act amending Title 27 VI Code, Chapter 1, Subchapter I relating to the special restricted licensing of physicians and subchapter II (a) relating to the practice of telemedicine; amending Title 19, Chapter 15, relating to the licensing, inspection and regulation of healthcare facilities and health services; and amending Title 33, Chapter 3, relating to exemptions from the payment of gross receipts on all Medicaid and Medicare payments. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly, was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0175–An Act amending Title 29 VI Code, Chapter 12 to strengthen the Economic Development Commission. Sponsored by Sen. Kurt Vialet, the measure was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0189–An Act amending Title 18 VI Code to reprogram the appropriation of Act No. 7904 to conduct the 2018 primaries and makes the appropriation available until expended. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Jean Forde, was approved as amended and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0059–An Act to amend Title 29 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 9 relating to regulation of billboards. This bill enlarges the definition of “advertising device and bans the use of changeable 6 electronic variable message signs, digital billboards or smartboards that have animation, movement, or the appearance or optical illusion of movement. Sponsored by Sen. Myron Jackson, the measure was approved by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

  • Bill No. 32-0024–An Act amending title 3 Virgin Islands Code, chapter 1, section 1 to provide for the position of Curator and amending title 31 Virgin Islands Code to add a chapter 42 establishing the Preservation of Historic Government Collections Act and for other purposes. Sponsored by Senate President Myron Jackson, the measure was approved as amended by the Full Body and forwarded to the Governor.

 

The Bills can be accessed in their entirety on our website via Bill Tracker module: http://legvi.org:82/

 

 

###

 

 

 

 

COMMITTEE UPDATED ON THE CIGNA HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE

Download PDF

St. Thomas – The Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, met with officials from Health Insurance Industry at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, to receive testimony on the recent rate changes to the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands Health Insurance Coverage under Cigna.

“The process of negotiations for health insurance policy was placed on hold because of Hurricane Irma and Maria that hit the Territory. The Governor’s recommendation was to increase the government/employee contributions from 65%/35% to 60%/40% for active government employees and retirees and 50%/50% for retirees under 65 years old. As a result of the hurricanes and a rollover budget the cost share has remained the same,” said Sen. Vialet.

“Can you expound on the impact of 60%/40% vs 65%/35% of government and employee contributions?” inquired Sen. Marvin Blyden.  Kurt Gehring, Chief Executive Officer for Gehring Group, stated that the 60%/40% increases the premium to $165 million. There is a 2% risk charge due to the possibility of healthy family members terminating their coverage while sick family members remain on the plan. By maintaining the 65%/35%, it is advantageous to accept the renewal with no changes to the existing health care cost share.

The 60%/40% also increases the employee’s share of the premium to $11.6 million; while the existing insurance plan increases it by $2.4 million added Beverly Joseph, Chairperson of the Government Employees Service Commission Health Insurance Board.

Sen. Brian Smith stated that increasing premiums could adversely affect government employees. “The 60%/40% plan places a financial burden on government employees. The salaries of the employees do not increase as fast as the insurance premiums.”

The original renewal request was for a 15.8% increase. However, after several negotiations with the Government of the Virgin Islands, it was agreed for 5% for the Medical Plan and 3.9% for the Dental Plan. The 5% was contingent upon the contribution split remaining at 65%/35%; according to Dorothyann Callahan, Sr. Client Manager for Cigna.

“Every year we aim to reduce the cost of health insurance. However, it often remains the same. Can you quantify the 5%?” asked Sen. Positive Nelson.  In response, Scott Evelyn, Market President for Cigna South Florida/Caribbean said, “The 5% or $6 million was a projection based on a formula to negotiate the reduction of health insurance rates.”

Sen. Jean Forde asked, “What drives the cost of insurance?” Joseph said, “Insurance rates increases based upon the number of claims filed by employees. The highest claims in the Territory are for high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, muscular-skeletal and cancer.”
Ultimately, lawmakers are awaiting the health insurance package to be sent down from Governor Kenneth Mapp. Therefore, members of the Senate will ratify the package at a later date.

Committee members present are Kurt Vialet, Dwayne DeGraff, Tregenza Roach, Novelle Francis, Neville James, Brian Smith, Marvin Blyden. Non-committee senators are present Janette Millin Young, Positive Nelson and Jean Forde.

 

 ###

COMMITTEE MEETS WITH GOVERNOR’S FINANCIAL TEAM TO DISCUSS FY 2018 BUDGET

Download PDF

St. Thomas – The Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Tuesday, to receive testimony from the Governor’s Financial Team on the rollover appropriations from FY 2017 to FY2018 Budget.

“At the end of this meeting, we will have a better understanding of the FY 2018 status. The goal is to determine a budget that will cover January 1st-September 30th for FY 2018 based on the numbers from FY 2017,” said Sen. Vialet.

“The estimated revenue loss $436.6 million, combined with an estimated expenditure increase of $29.4 million to open a $453 million gap; which partially offset by the approval of $250 million Community Disaster Loan with a remaining deficit of $203 million,” said Director Bowry. “The baseline budget for FY 2018 is $81.1 million less than the FY 2017 roll over appropriations. Therefore, the FY 2018 budget is $284.1 million.”

Nellon Bowry, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, stated that the damage as a result of Hurricanes Irma & Maria adversely affected the FY 2018 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands by reducing revenues and increasing expenditures.

Sen. Vialet said, “We had an opportunity to review the documentation. The estimated revenue projections and revenue loss are a result of the Governor’s Financial Team early assessment of the damage caused by the two hurricanes. For the Legislature to move forward with the FY 2018 budget, we want to make sure that all numbers are accurate. We need updated information so that the Government of Virgin Islands will be able to meet their financial obligations.”

###

SCHNEIDER REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER REQUESTS $34.9 MILLION FOR FY 2018

Download PDF

St. Thomas – The Committee on Finance chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, held a meeting at the Capitol Building on Wednesday, to receive testimony on an overview of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget from the Schneider Regional Medical Center (SRMC).

For FY 2018, SRMC requests $34.9 million as the total for operations and an additional allotment for Capital of $5 million to address infrastructure and equipment needs. The allotment will also assist in the required funding for the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) conversion of $2.9 million. However, SRMC is facing financial challenges that may affect current operations for FY 2017.

“The $7 million that SRMC requested for FY 2017, to operate at current full services and did not receive was shouldered by our vendors, the Water and Power Authority (WAPA), and the Internal Revenue Bureau (IRB). SRMC account payables increased by $8.3 million since the beginning of FY 2017,” said Bernard Wheatley, Chief Executive Officer of SRMC.

Sen. Dwayne DeGraff inquired about the outstanding debt owed to GERS. In response, Scott Nothnagel, Chief Financial Officer of SRMC stated that $639 million owed to GERS for employer contributions for health premiums and vendors are owed $38.7 million for delinquent employer contribution payments to GERS.

Additional outstanding obligations include $1.7 million to IRB and $10.1 million for WAPA. SRMC is requesting an additional $3.6 million to settle both debts.

“What are the billing and collections averages per month?” inquired Sen. Vialet. CFO Nothnagel stated that as of March 2017, there had been an increase in its collections averages from $4.1 million to $4.6 million.

Sen. Vialet asked, “Is there someone assigned who ensures that charts are completed per floor for patients with insurance so that the bills can be distributed timely?” CFO Nothnagel said, “SRMC has a tracking mechanism for the completion of charts.” Sen. Vialet advised that hospital needs compensation for all services because the monitoring system is not enough. There needs to be an employee that overlooks the completion of all charts.

Lawmakers also addressed SRMC’s heavy reliance on travel nurses vs hiring of local nurses. “It is wrong that travel nurses have a higher salary. They earn double of what a nurse makes who graduated from the University of the Virgin Islands,” said Sen. Brian Smith.

CEO Wheatley said, “A successful negotiation with the Office of Collective Bargaining to update the Nursing Union Collective Bargaining was signed by the Governor in September 2016 to appropriate $500,000 to increase salaries for nurses locally. However, only $375,000 was received.”

The total needed to implement the rate increases and to fill 20 critical nurse vacancies at SRMC is $1.1 million. If this happens, there will be an annual savings of $1.3 million for the hospital added CFO Nothnagel.

Sen. Vialet asked, “Are qualified local nurses not hired by SRMC?” CFO Wheatley stated that the reason why there are more travel nurses than local nurses is that there are not enough people locally who are meeting the qualifications to become a nurse. The requirements are to have the appropriate college education and to pass the NCLEX Exam.

Separately, U.S. Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (VIEDA) and St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corporation (STEEMCC) also shared the FY 2018 budget.

Acting Chief Executive Officer Wayne Biggs, Jr. stated that the FY 2018 budget request for VIEDA is $5,882,865. Comparatively to FY 2017, this is a reduction of $400,000. Areas that are affected by the cutbacks and the allocated amounts are $150,000 for the Incubator Program, $100,000 for marketing initiatives and $150,000 for the Cost Benefits Analysis.

For FY 2018, some of the primary objectives of VIEDA are to develop local and non-local marketing strategies, design a comprehensive five to ten-year plan for VIEDA and to complete the rules and regulations for the Hotel Development Act, International Financial Services Entities Program, Tax Increment Financing and the Youth Recreational Incentive Act.

Moleto Smith, Jr., Executive Director of STEEMCC is requesting $2,074,988 for FY 2018. Additional funding sources include $3,998,939 from the Program Income, $2,074,988 from Government of the Virgin Islands Grant and $1,809,380 from the Federal Grant. Projected expenditures for FY 2018 totals $7,883,307. The expenses include personnel services, fringe benefits provider services, medical programs, supplies, facility and other services.

Committee Members present are senators Kurt Vialet, Nereida Rivera O’Reilly, Dwayne DeGraff, Tregenza Roach, Neville James and Brian Smith.  Non-committee member Sen. Janelle Sarauw was also present. The next Committee on Finance meeting is on Tuesday, September 5th at the Fritz E. Lawaetz Conference Room on St. Croix.

###