Aug. 11, 2005 — Kevin Rodriquez, director of the Division of Personnel, and Karen Andrews, chief negotiator of the Office of Collective Bargaining, both asked for more money at budget hearings on St. Croix Thursday.
Andrews said the proposed 2006 fiscal year budget for her department was $436,538, an increase of $12,398 or about 3 percent over last year's.
The Office of Collective Bargaining has eight employees, but two are funded through the Justice Department budget. Personnel service costs are projected at $278,000, or 63 percent of the budget. The corresponding fringe benefits equal $81,758 or 19 percent of the budget.
Andrews' salary accounts for $85,000 of the budget.
Rodriquez requested an additional $261,774 be added to the Division of Personnel's original budget request of $2.6 million.
He said the additional money would fund three new positions at the division an administrative assistant, a training coordinator on St. Thomas and the first full-time training coordinator on St. Croix.
He said these positions are needed to satisfy a memorandum of understanding signed with the Department of Interior.
The additional three employees would bring the number at the division to 45.
The total increase for the employees is $142,000. The rest of the increased funds would go to other services. Rodriquez said the bulk of that was for consulting services for the Health Insurance Board and increases in costs to maintain the Human Resources Information System.
Rodriquez also requested a lump-sum budget. Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, who was sitting in for Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, said, "You can just get that out of your head."
He said, "You can say 'Positive' had an iron bat and just hit that idea out of here."
Nelson explained that it was his belief that the Senate was an oversight body, and if the Senate gave departments lump-sum budgets, it would be shirking its responsibilities.
After Andrews' presentation there was much discussion about salaries. In the documents Andrews presented the committee, it showed that the government owes $384,257,850 in retroactive wages outstanding.
Baptiste questioned Andrews if she knew exactly what money was available from the government for pay raises before she went into negotiations. She said she had access to account balances, but really could not determine what money was already encumbered or designated for certain uses.
In her presentation she said the problem was that the executive branch must negotiate and the Legislature must appropriate. She said, " This is putting the cart before the horse." She added, "At minimum, Title 24, Sec 374 (h) (V.I. Code) should be changed so that the appropriations of sustainable revenues are appropriated in advance of negotiation."
In a discussion about salaries, Baptiste talked about information that came from a hearing earlier this week. He said about Gov. Charles W. Turnbull, "He placed himself in a position where he makes less than some subordinates."
Andrews said much of the disparity in wages among government workers was the result of employees being represented by a variety of unions.
She added that it was her department's goal to get the starting wages for teachers up to $30,000.
In her report she noted that her department processed 23 terminations last year, down from 42 a year ago. Most of the job terminations were because of poor job performance, but there were other reasons too insubordination, incarceration, fighting and in a couple cases "job abandonment."
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