Dec. 2, 2002 – Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen has written to Senate President Almando "Rocky" Liburd saying that she and the Legislature's Post Audit Division have identified three sources of funding to come up with $6.1 million to cover pay raises negotiated this fall with unions representing three government employee groups.
In October, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull wrote Liburd asking the Legislature to appropriate that amount above and beyond the Fiscal Year 2003 budget appropriations in order to cover the pay increases. They bargaining units represent the territory's firefighters, their supervisors, and government workers in 15 departments and agencies who are covered by a United Steelworkers of America-Master contract.
Liburd conveyed the request through the Finance Committee chair to the post auditor.
In a letter dated Nov. 27 and distributed to the news media on Monday, Hansen said that she and Post Auditor Terry Drake have determined that the funds can be derived from the following sources:
– Interest Revenue Fund – $2 million.
– Indirect Cost Fund – $2.1 million.
– Industry Development Fund – $2 million.
"It is extremely important that we find the necessary funds to back these contracts so the firefighters can get their increases they deserve," Hansen wrote to Liburd. She added, "These contracts cannot be enacted 'til a funding source is identified."
However, she said she feels strongly "that we need a meeting of the Committee of the Whole to review the governor's request."
One problem, Hansen said, is that she and Drake have been unable to obtain confirmation from Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull of the current balances in the three funds. "We believe that based on the previous balances received from the Department of Finance," she wrote, "these funds should be available."
Meanwhile, she added, the post auditor "has communicated same information to Yvonne Tharpes in the Legal Counsel's Office if there is a need to draft legislation" to appropriate the money.
Liburd said at the end of October that he had told Drake that "before we can proceed in drafting the necessary legislation to address these contracts, a funding source must first be identified."
Also in late October, Turnbull announced that a new source of revenue anticipated to be more than $10 million would be tapped to help fund "currently negotiated salary increases for police officers." The money stems from a settlement reached with an elderly couple who for 20 years fought against paying corporate income taxes assessed by the Virgin Islands.
(See "Senate to look for money to cover pay hikes".)
Hansen told Liburd that "all the fiscal officers" should be invited to appear before the Committee of the Whole "to testify regarding these funding sources. Commissioner Bernice Turnbull and [Office of Management and Budget] Director Ira Mills should be in attendance."
According to Government House, there are 30 collective bargaining agreements covering government employees. Repeated efforts to obtain details from the administration on those pacts recently agreed upon and ratified have been unsuccessful.
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