The V.I. Career and Technical Education Board plans this upcoming year to work on re-establishing a St. Croix diesel mechanics program, like the one shut down in 2006 when its teacher was promoted to management, the board’s chairman said Thursday during budget hearings.
Students in this vocational diesel mechanics program learned the fundamentals of the trade, and at the same time wrote essays and incorporated science lab work into their curriculum. Its students regularly went on to successful careers with the likes of military contractors, International Harvester, the larger local companies like Hovensa and St. Croix Renaissance, and opened up their own businesses, its teacher, Joseph Schrader, said in 2006. Others went on for more advanced training at what was then Daimler Chrysler, at the Universal Technical Institute’s automotive school in Illinois and other places, Schrader said at the time. (See related links below)
Several times the program has been a winner or runner-up for an award of excellence from the Automotive Industry Planning Council, along with a number of other industry commendations. And in 2005, a biodiesel project won first prize in the territorial science fair, received recognition at the agricultural fair and won an environmental quality award from the EPA.
Despite its success, the program died when its teacher was promoted to management and not replaced.
This year, the CTEC Board plans to allocate $50,000 of its budget to help reestablish the program, CTEC Board Chairman Daniel McIntosh told the Finance Committee on Thursday.
There is a limited program at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas that teaches small engine repair along with a marine industry program, but the St. Croix program has been completely defunct, McIntosh said.
Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly asked how the board would make sure the program was sustainable and would not stumble like before.
The board believes the programs should be structured as an academy, with private sector partners, and will work to make sure federal Perkins Act grant funds "are made available to augment the re-establishment of this vitally needed program," McIntosh said.
O’Reilly and others also asked whether the $50,000 would be enough to allow the program to begin again.
"I believe so," McIntosh said. "Even though the program was shut down on St. Croix, the tools and equipment are still there to a great degree and just need to be cleaned up. The school has two tractor heads that were donated to the school," he said. "The difficulty may be on St. Thomas," where there is less equipment, he said, "so we recommend spending more of the money here at Ivanna Eudora Kean," he said.
The governor’s recommended allocation to CTE is $700,000 from the General Fund, with none of it budgeted for wages or salaries for the volunteer board. McIntosh presented the board’s budget request of $771,000 – which just more than 10 percent more than the recommended budget.
Along with the aforementioned $50,000 for the diesel mechanics program, the budget also includes $100,000 to help with setting up an aviation maintenance academy in both districts. More money will be needed and they expect federal funds through the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006, McIntosh said.
The Fiscal Year 2014 budget also includes:
– $100,000 to set up guidelines to certify private career and technical programs and to review those in the public schools;
– $50,000 to support student organizations and conferences;
– $20,000 for professional development;
– $25,000 for emergency equipment replacement and repairs;
– $20,000 for teacher aids;
– and $45,000 for the CTE state plan, which expires this year and is required with the re-authorization of the Perkins Act.
The Finance Committee also considered the Public Employees Relations Board budget request of $1.1 million, which included a request for additional funding for personnel costs to give a raise to their legal counsel.
The board provides mediation and arbitration services between government employees and management, as well as training for mediators, employees, managers and other interested people. A dispute with a government employer goes first to PERB for a quasi-judicial hearing and can then be appealed to the V.I. Superior Court. It also certifies and decertifies union representation based upon union votes.
According to the Legislature of the Virgin Islands Post Audit’s report, PERB’s personnel services represent 53 percent of the overall FY14 budget. PERB is requesting a budget of $587,000 for its personnel costs. The budget request represents an increase of $23,400 above the FY13 personnel services of $563,600.
PERB’s request for more money to properly compensate its legal staff raised an inquiry from some senators. Sen. Rivera-O’Reilly asked PERB Executive Director Zandra Petersen, “Will PERB be able to take on additional caseloads without adding more staff?”
“Yes, I believe we would,” Petersen said. “If we have an influx of cases that come into the PERB, then we’ll have to bring on a legal team on contract to handle the cases. However, I don’t see that happening, senator. We have a great legal counsel, Mrs. Raymond-Roy, who performs above and beyond and we don’t want to lose her. So she needs to be compensated accordingly," Petersen said.
PERB’s recommended $1.1 million appropriation for the 2014 budget is from the Union Arbitration Award and Government Employees Increment Fund. Of that, $587.000 is for wages and salaries; $221,000 for employer contributions to Social Security, Medicare and benefits; $253,000 for other services and charges; $24,000 for utilities; $16,000 for supplies; and $6,000 for capital outlays.
No votes were taken during the information gathering budget hearing.