GERS Discusses Efficiency of Rescue Plan, Potential Conflict for Chairman

Trustee Ronald Russell made a bid to be the chair of the GERS Board of Trustees. (Screenshot from Zoom)

While the Government Employees’ Retirement System has millions of dollars flowing into it because of the rescue plan enacted last year, its trustees still have concerns.

At the GERS Trustee meeting Tuesday, Glenville Henderson, investment analyst for the system, pointed out that it still has a “fundamental shortfall in the amount collected and what is paid out.” This monthly deficit ends up costing about $120 million annually, he said. The rescue plan did result in a payment into the system of $157 million in October, which goes directly into the system’s portfolio, he noted.

Henderson reported Thursday a $30 million drawdown from the portfolio, which raised questions from Trustees Ronald Russell and Andre Dorsey. They wanted to know whether lobbying for a modification in the plan was necessary to stop drawdowns from the portfolio and whether the failures of some agencies to pay employees’ contributions timely was a cause.

Austin Nibbs, the system administrator, said only the Water and Power Authority and Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas were behind on their contributions and those payments did not significantly affect the drawdowns.

The trustees entered a prolonged debate concerning appointing a chairman of the board. Russell said he was concerned that Trustee Dwane Callwood could not serve because of a conflict of interest with the Senate. Russell ran against Callwood for the chairmanship. He said he was “eminently qualified,” but he lost.

The trustees also had a discussion about how information would be distributed among board members. Information is distributed electronically but Dorsey wanted a hard copy of material. A motion to set a policy on “information dissemination” was voted down, brought up again, and then tabled.

The board members also discussed giving Nibbs authorization to negotiate with Vitech Software to update its software. Callwood said updates to the software have not been installed in over a decade because of the worries about possible insolvency. He said that now the system has been “pulled back from the cliff,” it was time to update the software, which in technological terms is “prehistoric.”

Terence Thomas, chief information technology officer, said the update would probably cost more than $7 million.

Nibbs presented the treasurer’s report. It said the system in December collected 51 percent ($13,446,005) of what was needed for disbursements — $26,117,466.

In his own report, he said as of mid-January, 8,735 retirees were receiving benefits from the system. He added that from Oct. 1 to Jan. 13, there were 102 retirees added to the payroll and 100 deleted.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Gov. Juan Luis Hospital on St. Croix was behind on its GERS contributions. Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas is behind on its contributions.

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