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PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RELATIONS BOARD, VIRGIN ISLANDS LABOR MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE, VIRGIN ISLANDS TAXICAB COMMISSION AND MAGENS BAY AUTHORITY DEFEND FISCAL YEAR 2023 BUDGET

Published: Aug 26, 2022

ST. CROIX – The Committee on Finance, chaired by Senator Kurt Vialet, continued budget hearings today, at the Frits E. Lawaetz Legislative Conference Room. The agenda consisted of the Fiscal Year 2023 Budget proposals for the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB), the Virgin Islands Labor Management Committee, the Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission, and the Magens Bay Authority.

Pierina Jacobs-Feldman, Chairperson of the Virgin Islands Public Employees Relations Board delivered testimony. The proposed budget for the Board Totaled $1,496,909.  Approximately 55% of the budget, or $818,520, is allotted for personnel services, $337,546 for fringe benefits, $23,680 for office and operating supplies, and $300,563 for other services and charges, including professional services, communication costs, rental of machines and buildings, and repair and maintenance. Zandra Petersen, Executive Director for PERB delivered additional budgetary information. PERB is comprised of the Chairman and four board members. There are 13 budgeted positions, with ten on St. Croix and two on St. Thomas. One vacant position for scanning archivist is currently vacant but is budgeted as a part time position and is anticipated to be filled in early Fiscal Year 2023. Jacobs-Feldman stated that all current board members terms are expired, and that there have been difficulties attracting new board members.

Yirah Tutein, the Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Labor Management Committee delivered testimony.  The executive committee is comprised of nine members. There are four management members and five labor members. This includes an Executive Director and a Labor Relations Officer. The recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2023 for the Committee totaled $188,899. $126,000 covers personnel, which includes one part-time employee. $10,000 covers fringe benefits, $5,000 covers the costs of office supplies, and $47,925 covers other services and charges. This includes professional services for workshops, network and communication, rental costs for office space, the cost of inter-island travel, and the cost of utilities.

Vernice Gumbs, the Acting Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Taxicab Commission returned to deliver detailed revenue figures pertaining to their proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Budget. The recommended budget for the Commission for Fiscal Year 2023 totaled $1,027,414.  This included $328,884 for classified employee salaries, $216,810 for unclassified employee salaries, $21,073 for lump sum payments, $10,000 for holiday pay, and $9,500 in other. According to figures delivered to the body, there was a total of $328,930.09 collected in revenues between October 1, 2021, through July 31, 2022. $85,032 came from the St. Croix District, and $243,898.09 from the St. Thomas-St. John District. There were 518 taxi medallion holders in St. Croix, 1,272 in St. Thomas, and 167 in St. John.

Senator Vialet voiced concern based on numbers provided, which indicated that almost half of taxi-medallion holders had not paid to renew their business license.

Hubert Brumant, the General Manager of the Magens Bay Authority delivered testimony. The Magens Bay Authority is a corporate instrumentality of the Government of the Virgin Islands and is legally separate and apart from the Government of the Virgin Islands. It is subject to the control of a seven-member board. The Authority is responsible for the management of Magens Bay Park, and Smith Bay Park. The projected combined operating expenses for Fiscal Year 2023 is $2,391,493.  Approximately 78% of the Authority’s expenses are attributed to payroll. There are currently 39 employees. Full-time employees payments are processed by the Department of Finance, and the Authority reimburses the Government on a quarterly basis. Part-time workers are paid in house, and the Authority pays all associated taxes directly to the respective agencies.

Both parks rely on entrance fees, open space, and user activity rentals.  Magens Bay Park has rental income from The Yak Shak, The AAA Taxi Stand, and Magens Bay Concessions. Magens Bay Park has historically financially been self-sufficient and does not rely upon any government appropriations for funding.  The authority has in the past applied for and received government grants for capital enhancement projects, such as the gate house and bath house. According to Brumant, gate receipts of Smith Bay Park have never supported the costs of its operation. Although there has been a major investment in infrastructure at Smith Bay Park, there has been insufficient revenue from gate receipts. A total of $610,916 has been loaned to Smith Bay Park to support its operations since its acquisition from the Government in 2006.

Senators present at today’s committee hearing included Kurt Vialet, Marvin A. Blyden, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Donna A. Frett-Gregory, Javan E. James, Sr., Janelle K. Sarauw, Angel L. Bolques, Jr., Novelle E. Francis, Jr., Kenneth L. Gittens, and Carla J. Joseph.

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