Government House said today that the Mapp administration has made all outstanding employer and employee payments owed to the Government Employees’ Retirement System (G.E.R.S.), keeping in line with an order from the District Court that saw the government committing to come current. At the time the government said it owed G.E.R.S. $31 million. Today, Government House said the total owed to the system was $38 million, which included interest and fees.
The repayment of the outstanding contributions and withholdings is unrelated to the issue of the actuarially determined employer contribution (A.D.E.C.), which G.E.R.S. maintains the government has not paid since 1991. Looking to steer away blame from the current administration for the over $1.2 billion in owed A.D.E.C. payments, Government House said funds to make A.D.E.C. payments have not been appropriated in any government budget for over 20 years.
Further straining the issue, the Mapp administration and G.E.R.S. are disputing whether the A.D.E.C. 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, in preparation for a court hearing scheduled for Friday, August 24, according to Government House.
Government House said the government’s repayment of all outstanding employer and employee contributions to G.E.R.S. follows the recent announcement by Governor Mapp that the Virgin Islands has entered into a $1.4 billion agreement with the owners of Limetree Bay Terminals to restart refining on the south shore, which will create hundreds of jobs in the territory and potentially add at least five years of life to G.E.R.S. The deal between the government and Limetree Bay says that 50 percent of the annual revenues from refining operations will go directly to G.E.R.S. According to the governor, this should turn out to be about $300 million during the first 10 years – if all goes as planned.
The entire deal still hinges on a legislative vote. The governor has called senators into special session on July 25 to consider and ratify the agreement.
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 G.E.R.S. over the next three years as well as increase the contribution of its members whose salaries are higher than $65,000 per year.