Mapp Says Government Workers Get A Pay Raise B4 Elections … (And A Pink Slip After)
CHARLOTTE AMALIE –– Governor Kenneth Mapp has ordered that the minimum wage of all Executive Branch employees be raised to $13 per hour and for the base salaries of teachers, social workers and other vital government workers to be significantly increased in order to retain and recruit a robust workforce.
The salary increases are outlined in an Executive Order signed Monday and will take effect on August 1.
“There are certain positions in the public sector which remain vacant or severely understaffed due to a lack of qualified applicants as a result of low entrance salaries,” Governor Mapp wrote in his order. “In order to attract qualified applicants for public service, it is necessary to increase the base or entrance salaries of certain positions in the Government of the Virgin Islands.”
But St. Thomas Sen. Janette Millen Young, one of eight teams challenging Mapp for governor, questioned the sincerity of the governor’s promises.
Mapp said that base salaries will increase for teachers, firefighters, corrections officers, emergency medical technicians, environmental officers, police officers, enforcement officers, social workers, Head Start teachers and other Executive Branch employees.
Those making more than the new base salaries will have their wages addressed at the bargaining table, the Governor said.
“Last school year, we had over 150 vacant teacher positions in the Department of Education alone,” he said. “This increase will allow the Department to aggressively recruit highly qualified individuals to educate our young people.”
The Governor noted that the minimum wage for public sector employees had not been increased in over a decade, while a law was passed in 2016 enacting a more than $3 hourly increase for private sector workers bringing the minimum wage up to $10.50 per hour as of June 1. The new Executive Order increases the minimum wage for Government workers to $13 per hour or $27,040 annually.
“It is about providing a living wage for all workers in the Virgin Islands,” the Governor said. “The Mapp-Potter Administration has remained committed to raising salaries and creating new jobs and economic opportunities in both the public and private sectors.”
Since 2016, Governor Mapp granted more 3,000 Government employees raises averaging about $5,000 each. Earlier this year, the Governor announced that the minimum salary for police officers had been increased to $40,900.
The Chief Executive indicated he was calling on the Judicial and Legislative branches to also enact increases to the minimum wage.
The salary increases will be funded by a portion of revenues from the recent landmark $1.4 billion agreement with ArcLight Capital and Limetree Bay to restart oil refining on St. Croix and will be sustained through the growth and expansion of the Territory’s economy, the Governor said. He previously sent down legislation mandating that half of the funds generated by the refinery agreement be directed to GERS.
“These revenues were not included in our FY2018 budget and our now available to us to support the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) and invest in our Government workers,” he said.
The Governor made this major announcement during a Monday morning news conference, during which he also addressed what he described as “misinformation” being circulated in the community about the recently ratified refinery agreement.
“The Government of the Virgin Islands is now in the energy business as a partner with ArcLight Capital and the Limetree Bay families,” the Governor reminded. “We provide them tax exemptions, but we have entered into a revenue sharing agreement. As the customers purchase product from this facility, the people of the Virgin Islands receive revenues.”
The tax exemptions provided to ArcLight Capital and the Limetree Bay groups are similar to the tax exemptions provided to all the Territory’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) companies, the Governor said. However, there is a major difference – the EDC companies must only pledge a minimum of employment and investment, while the refinery operators are also in a revenue sharing agreement with the Government that provides for a $22.5 million annual payment to the V.I. Treasury once the refinery is in operation.
Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) Commissioner Delroy Richards also announced the first joint recruit class comprised of recruits from St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John. These recruits will undergo intensive police training for six months starting August 6 at the Police Academy on St. Croix. Recruits will receive instruction from trainers from the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), as well as Academy trainers.
In addition to providing training to recruits, the representatives from IACP will train and evaluate Academy trainers and VIPD senior staff to elevate and advance the Department as a whole. “The goal is to have a Police Department that is second to none,” said Commissioner Richards.