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Finance Commissioner Says Government Is Up To Date With GERS After $38M Payment

CHARLOTTE AMALIE – In accordance with the proposal submitted in March 2018 to the Government Employees Retirement System (GERS) and the United States District Court for the Virgin Islands, Commissioner of Finance Valdamier Collens, said to all government employees that the Department of Finance has remitted payment of all outstanding contributions and withholdings to GERS, totaling approximately $38 million, including interest and fees.

But still larger payments are owed to the territory’s public pension fund, according to GERS Administrator Austin Nibbs.

“The GVI has paid the deliquent employees contributions, employer contributions, and loan deductions and related interest due to the GERS through December 2017,” Nibbs said.

Collens explained the disputed GERS numbers.

The repayment of the outstanding contributions and withholdings is unrelated to the issue of the Actuarially Determined Employer Contribution (ADEC). Unfortunately, the ADEC has not been appropriated in any government budget for over 20 years. In fact, the Government of the U.S. Virgin Islands and GERS are disputing whether the ADEC was part of the 1984 Consent Judgment that required the payment of employee and employer contributions. Although the issue is currently pending before the District Court, the parties will submit legal briefs on the issue by Friday, July 13, 2018 in preparation for a court hearing scheduled for Friday, August 24, 2018.

The government’s repayment of all outstanding contributions to the GERS follows the recent announcement by Governor Kenneth Mapp that the U.S. Virgin Islands has entered into a $1.4 billion agreement with the owners of Limetree Bay Terminals to reopen one of the world’s largest refineries, create hundreds of jobs in the territory and shore up the solvency of the Government Employees Retirement System. It is estimated that the deal may contribute more than $380 million for the GERS over the next 10 years, which will help stabilize its finances and extend its life by an additional five years, providing the time necessary to find a permanent solution to restore GERS to solvency.

Separately, as part of the FY 2019 proposed budget, the governor also submitted a bill to the Senate to increase the government’s contribution to GERS over the next three years as well as increase the contribution of its members whose salaries are higher than $65,000 per year.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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