ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Finance chaired by Senator Kurt A. Vialet, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building and received testimony on the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 Executive Budget for the Government of the Virgin Islands of the United States. Invited testifiers are officials from the Schneider Regional Medical Center (SRMC), the St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corporation (STEEMCC), and the Office of Collective Bargaining.
The Schneider Regional Medical Center Governing Board’s recommendation and approval for the FY 2022 budget total $26.7 million. This is a seven percent increase compared to the budget of FY 2021, according to SRMC Interim Chief Executive Officer Dr. Luis Amaro. The FY 2022 budget breakdown of the total expenses of $86,949,509 is as follows: $41,574,560 for personnel services, $14,039,336 for fringe benefits, $12,659,509 for supplies, $4,135,801 for utility services, and $14,540,304 for other services and charges. Dr. Amaro noted that achieving financial solvency for SRMC is a major challenge.
Regarding health and retirement benefits, SRMC is facing difficulties with providing coverage of the increased cost of the employer’s portion. Dr. Amaro stated that the operating budget for SRMC is affected because the employer’s portion of the 3% increase in FY 2020 from 20.5% to 23.5% for the Government Employees Retirement System remains unfunded. The employer’s costs of benefits of $14 million, compared to the total Wages of $42 million, demonstrates that SRMC has a benefit expense rate of 34%. As a result, Dr. Amaro mentioned that attracting new employees and staff retention is adversely impacted due to GERS deductions. Sen. Vialet recommended that SRMC develop a private retirement account to entice employees to work with SRMC. Due to the lack of funding for capital projects, Dr. Amaro indicated that technological upgrades are challenging to keep up with.
The governor’s recommended FY 2022 budget totals $2,924,229 for the St. Thomas East End Medical Center Corporation. The overall operating budget totals $11,758,189. The proposed General Fund appropriation represents 25% of the budget, while 64% or $7,539,380 is for program income and 11% or $1,294,580 is for Federal Funds, according to STEEMCC Executive Director Moleto Smith, Jr. Justifying the budget, Smith indicated that the FY 2022 goals are to conclude construction drawings of the new facility, expand the behavioral health program, and to provide training for workforce development. The overall breakdown is as follows: $6,206,086 for personnel salaries, $1,087,994 for employee benefits, $2,061,001 for contracts/consultants, $703,588 for supplies, $37,500 for travel, $25,000 for equipment, and $1,360,020 for administrative and maintenance services.
Separately, the proposed budget for the Office of Collective Bargaining totals $1,199,480, according to OCB Chief Negotiator Joss Springette. The FY 2022 budget breakdown is as follows: $677,546 for personnel services, $316,934 for fringe benefits, $31,000 for equipment and supplies, $164,000 for other services, and $10,000 for utilities. Defending the budget, Springette stated that the funds are needed to fill five vacancies Territory-wide. Presently, OCB has 270 pending cases. Although 52 cases were settled/resolved, Springette indicated that unions filed 95 new cases with OCB.
Senators attending the meeting: Chairman Kurt A. Vialet, Janelle K. Sarauw, Franklin D. Johnson, Samuel Carrión, Dwayne M. DeGraff, Carla J. Joseph, Javan E. James, Milton E. Potter, and Marvin A. Blyden. ###