Oct. 14, 2002 – The University of the Virgin Islands is feeling the crunch of the territory's insurance crisis, according to reports presented at a UVI board of trustees meeting Saturday.
Property insurance costs soared in the Virgin Islands last year when several companies stopped writing coverage in the territory. Previously, UVI purchased $17 million worth of windstorm insurance and $79 million in earthquake and fire coverage, Vincent Samuel, associate vice president for administration and finance, said.
"Our strategy changed this year because of availability and cost," Samuel said. In the case of windstorm coverage, "That amount [$17 million] was not available to us this year," he said.
UVI purchased $12 million in windstorm and $79 million in fire and earthquake insurance coverage this year at a cost of $1.6 million, Samuel said. A consultant recommended that amount of coverage based on losses likely to be sustained in a Category 4 hurricane.
Still, "Twelve million in insurance cost $500,000 more than we paid last year for $17 million," said Malcolm Kirwan, UVI's former vice president for administration finance who has been named executive director of the university's new research and technology park.
Even with the increased insurance costs and despite a fourth-quarter allotment reduction of $1.1 million, UVI is in sound fiscal condition, according to Roy Jackson, the board's Finance Committee chair. "Throughout the last three quarters, we've received all anticipated allotments," he said. "There was a reduction in the fourth quarter, but that was across the board."
In that final quarter, Jackson said, all government agencies' allotments were reduced because of a shortfall in revenue collections. However, he said two additional allocations totaling $1.5 million that were not part of UVI's original budget appropriation will pick up the slack, and the university will end up receiving $385,170 above the Fiscal Year 2002 budgeted funds.
And, Jackson added, the university has managed to keep its purse strings tight this year, spending only 88 percent of its budgeted funds. There was a 23 percent increase in revenues and only a 17 percent increase in expenditures.
One area less under control that came up for discussion at the board meeting is UVI's public image. An article in The Avis several months ago reported that the entire Class of 2002 in the associate degree in nursing program on St. Croix had failed. Some board members expressed concern about the school's representation in the media in the wake of that article.
UVI President LaVerne Ragster said the article was inaccurate. She said four students enrolled in one required course failed, and that since then a mentoring program has been put in place.
Ragster said more control over what gets into the media is the answer. "The problem is, you have staff and students talking to the press and the press putting together a story that was not under our control," she said.
An accomplishment that reflects well on UVI is the implementation of money-saving energy- and water-conservation measures. Board member Henry Smock, who chairs the Building and Grounds Committee, reported that St. Croix's campus is almost 100 percent self-sufficient.
"The UVI staff is clearly doing more with less here; both campuses never looked better," he said.
A large portion of the three-hour public meeting was dedicated to discussion about a change in the UVI organizational chart. Ragster proposed to give more authority to the chancellor on each campus in an effort to streamline administrative functions. The suggestion was met with apprehension by several board members, and a follow-up meeting to vote on the measure was set for Nov. 9.
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