A government retiree attending the Government Employee Retirement System (GERS) Board of Trustees meeting Thursday would have had trouble deciding whether she should be relieved or aggrieved. The treasurer’s report, read by Austin Nibbs, GERS administrator, showed that central government was again paying into the system.
In February, when Nibbs told the board that the government had quit making its payment to the system as well as not forwarding the employee contributions taken from their paychecks, many retirees were left aghast. It was like the central government was kicking a cripple (GERS) who had fallen. GERS is predicted to be bankrupt in less than six years even with the government making it contributions. Gov. Kenneth Mapp responded to the criticism that nonpayment was criminal by saying that it was just a financial management issue.
The bad news Thursday was that, though the government is now paying; it is way behind on its payments. Nibbs said the central government had not made payments for the April 13; April 27 and May 11 pay days.
Further aggravating the situation are several government semi-autonomous agencies falling behind on payment. Nibbs said that the St. Thomas East End Medical Center has not made a payment into the retirement fund since August 2016 and the Juan F. Luis Hospital owes $4 million dollars to the system. Frederiksted Health Care Center owes payments for the last two pay periods and Schneider Regional Medical Center missed a full payment in January and has made only partial payments since.
After Nibbs read the reports trustee Carol Callwood said elected officials need to act.
“Collection is $10 million behind last year,” she said. “This is a problem and not a problem we can fix here in the GERS building.”
Nibbs pointed out in his administrator’s report that the government was also behind on rent payments it should be making to GERS to the amount of almost a half a million dollars. He said the primary defaulters were the Department of Justice, the Casino Commission and the Division of Personnel.
GERS has more than 8,500 retirees receiving payment and the system pays out about $10 million dollars in annuities each month.
In 2016, 286 employees retired from the government and 153 of them have yet to receive their first annuity check. The reason they have not receive a retirement check is because government contributions are missing from their accounts.
Former government employee Stephen Cohen was selected to complete the term of Judge Edgar Ross who resigned as a trustee earlier this year. However, he was not seated Thursday because former Sen. Adelbert Bryan, who was disqualified because he did not meet the educational requirements, has contested his disqualification.