Not many people showed up Wednesday night for a political forum sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers union on St. Thomas.
About two dozen people and four senators attended the first session of Answers 2000 to discuss issues relating to education in the territory.
Of the eight senators invited, only Sens. Roosevelt David, Lorraine Berry, Donald "Ducks" Cole and Almando "Rocky" Liburd turned out.
Carol Callwood, the forum's moderator, led off the three-hour session by asking senators how they would find revenue to put teachers on their current pay scales.
David said an arrangement should be hammered out between unions and the government over retroactive wages and
salary increases "because it's unrealistic to think that we'll ever be able to raise over $270 million to pay wages and increases."
Berry said several factors continue to wreak havoc on the government's finances, including the memorandum of understanding the governor signed in January and the general decline in revenues.
"I have found out recently that funds are being drawn against the $300 million bond proceeds to meet the biweekly payroll," Berry said. "Our main objective appears to be covering the biweekly payroll."
But Berry said revenue enhancement measures are on the drawing board with an eye toward addressing the retroactive wages and salary increases.
Cole identified two funding sources to address retroactive pay and salary hikes: a rebate of the gasoline tax and a head tax on in-bound cruise passengers, legislation that has been proposed by Sen. David.
Liburd said there is general support in the Legislature for any recurring funding source to be earmarked for retroactive wages and salary increases.
Other questions focused on granting governance to the Board of Education and curbing school violence. Callwood said the senators' responses on the issues posed Wednesday will be distributed to all union members.