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Charlotte Amalie
Sunday, July 14, 2024
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The Forgotten Island

Dear Source:
"We haven't forgotten you". How many times have St. Johnians heard that from elected and appointed officials? The very fact that is said leads one to believe that St. John is, in fact, forgotten. This needs to be fixed. There must be a way to allow equal sharing of the government pie. I believe the solution is easy; it's the implementation that will be difficult.
For all government activities, including voting, legislative acts and executive branch functions, there are two separate and distinct districts: The District of St. Croix and the District of St. Thomas/St. John. This duality exists in law and in practice. Many private entities, including non-profit organization also refer to the district they serve and often have specific barriers in terms of just what population would use their services. In other words, the Virgin Islands are split into two counties. The two districts (Counties) then share equally the revenues the government receives. One would think that this is so but therein lays the problem.
Both Virgin Islands districts have approximately the same number of people with St. Croix having slightly more citizens. The St. Thomas/St. John District is again split with St. Thomas having approximately 10 times more citizens than does St. John. Looking at it from a big picture, St. John represents approximately 5% of the total population of the Virgin Islands. Given this fact, it would stand to reason that St. John would receive 5% of all the available government services. But it doesn't work that way in reality. If it were true, then St. John would rightfully receive $40Million worth of government services based on an $800Million budget. What it receives in actuality is a fraction of that value.
Perhaps a change in the way government does business is called for. If the idea of district sharing was lawfully changed to sharing by population, government revenues (actual money plus services) could be shared more equally. This would require an enormous change in the structure of government and it would mean altering many laws. But it would be the fairest way to distribute wealth.
St. John provides a great deal more in government revenue than it receives in services. This is an unfortunate fact which has been true for many, many years. That said, it must be assumed that St. Thomas and St. Croix are receiving the benefit of revenues that hard working businesses and individuals on St. John provided. The overage is certainly is not sitting in an account somewhere. It would be quite easy to ensure that St. John received an equal share by simply taking the designated St. Thomas/ St. John District budgets for all departments and multiplying by a figure close to10% to derive the budget for St. John. (St. John has a population of approximately 5,400 and St. Thomas has approximately 53,000)
It is time for the citizens of St. John to receive their fair share. It is also time to keep a watchful eye on just how much St. John receives in services. We pay handsomely into the revenue stream of the government but government services are still sorely lacking. If the new property tax laws are implemented and with the new and outrageous valuations hovering over us, the amounts St. Johnians will pay into the government coffers will be greatly higher. If we pay more, we should receive more.
The government says: "We haven't forgotten you". How long are we to hear that phrase before they actually remember? It is only right that St. John should receive the services we deserve. It is up to St. Johnians to never let the government forget.
Paul Devine
St. John

Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to visource@gmail.com.

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