Education Boards Take Cuts, Hire Employees, Hope to Raise Salaries

The Career and Technical Education Board (CTE)  and the Virgin Islands Board Of Education (VIBE)  both showed up with new employees in tow on Monday at the Senate Finance Committee hearing.

The CTE board has hired a new executive director, Malcom McGregor, at $75,000 annually, and VIBE recently hired Alcenta de Windt, as director of business and finance.

Both boards presented to the committee, chaired by Sen. Kurt Vialet, budgets with Gov. Kenneth Mapp’s recommended 10 percent cuts.

Winona Hendricks, chairman of VIBE, presented its  fiscal year 2018 general fund lump sum budget request of $1,568,678 for the agency’s operations,  $174,297 less than its fiscal year 2017 general fund budget of $1,742,975.

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VIBE also requested $1,305,966 in the miscellaneous section of the general fund for scholarships and special legislative grants for VIBE’s total budget request of $2,874,644.

However, Hendricks did not seem happy with those figures. She said in her testimony that if the 10 percent cut is implemented, “VIBE will not have resources available to operate at an optimum level.” Specifically she said the board would not be able to relocate and furnish its St. Croix office; it would not be able to properly staff the St. Croix office; it would not be able to acquire a generator for the St. Thomas office; it would not be able to acquire a document storage and retrieval system to help it become a paperless office or be able to give its staff long overdue salary adjustments. She said that staff was still working at 2010 levels.

The VIBE budget includes 16 staff positions – 13 are full time; two are part time and there is one vacancy. The cost for personnel services are $826,848 and $310,000 for fringe benefits.

 Ilene Garner, chairperson Career and Technical Education Board, made the request for the CTE board for $510,000; reduced from $600,000 in the previous year.

The CTE board is presently operating with only three members of a board that should contain nine members.

It has three classified employees for a cost of $104,000 plus fringe benefits of $7,175 (This does not include the $75,000 for McGregor’s position which still requires NOPA approval).

The CTE board has the mission of “developing student potential for a lifetime of learning and successful career preparation.”

Both boards oversee scholarships. Garner said the CTE board had received $31,000 to support recipients of the Ragster scholarship and $10,000 was disbursed to recipients of the Petersen scholarship.

As for VIBE, during fiscal year 2017 the board received 999 applications for financial aid; 550 applications were submitted from the St. Thomas/St. John district and 449 applications were submitted from the St. Croix district. 447 applications were received on-line and 525 applications were submitted to the board’s offices. VIBE projects to award a total of $2.2 million in legislative scholarships, grants, awards and loans in fiscal year 2017.

A lengthy discussion ensued when testifiers gave a figure showing that collection  of student loans was way down. However, it was later determined that loan collection was not really much lower than it had been in previous years.

Hendricks said that “the board continues for the most part to be appropriated the same amount for legislative grants since their inception despite the ever increasing number of qualified students that apply every year.”

She requested that “the legislature increase the amount appropriated for those legislative scholarships, grants, and loans by 38 percent or $496,000.

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