May 3, 2006 – Public Services Commission members said during a PSC meeting Tuesday evening that they were reluctant to approve a permanent increase for ferry boat service without receiving "adequate" financial statements from ferry boat companies.
However, by meeting's end, a new permanent fee schedule was approved. The new rates would go into effect on June 1. In the interim, the temporary rates set by the PSC in February will remain in place.
Voting in favor of the new rates were board members Verne C. David and Raymond Williams, with member Joseph Boschulte voting against. PSC chair Alecia Wells abstained.
The new schedule for passengers traveling one-way between Cruz Bay and Red Hook are as follows:
The new schedule for passengers traveling one-way between Cruz Bay and downtown Charlotte Amalie are as follows:
According to Roy Jackson, the hearing examiner hired last year by the PSC to analyze the need for a new fee schedule, the new rates are needed so that the ferry boat companies, Varlack Ventures and Transportation Services, can maintain various operational costs — including the ever-rising price of fuel. "The problem is that, with the exception of the student rates and the baggage rate the basic rate structure has been in effect since 1989," he said. "That's a period of approximately 17 years."
However, while Jackson said the PSC should approve the new fee schedule, he also recommended that the ferry companies improve their "cash management procedures" and generate adequate – and timely – financial statements.
"Inadequacies in the companies' revenue collection and accounting procedures represent a significant concern," he said. "This situation creates some doubt as to the amounts of reported revenues in both companies' financial statements."
After the meeting Jackson said he was most concerned about the downtown operation, where "the companies were collecting cash without issuing tickets to passengers." He said that with this system, there is no way to account for the amount of revenues coming in.
Fueled by Jackson's statements, PSC members said they would only approve the rates if the ferry boat companies submit quarterly financial statements, beginning after the rate increase starts in June.
Acting upon other recommendations submitted by Jackson, PSC members also said the ferry boat companies should reconcile their bank accounts on a regular basis, and prepare a plan to immediately acquire new assets.
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