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GERS Loans Coming Back, Hotel Going Up

Artist rendering of the hotel to be completed in Havensight next year (Photo from BASE4 architecture and engineering firm website)

System Administrator Angel Dawson reported to the Government Employees’ Retirement System Board of Directors Thursday that reinstituting the loan program was going well, as was a hotel project on GERS property.

The disbandment of the loan program in August 2015 brought many objections. Within a year of the program being stopped, the V.I. Senate passed a law mandating the program to be reinstated. However, the board stuck to its guns and said they could not implement the popular program while exercising their fiduciary duty. Board members and investment analysts were concerned that any multi-year loans still outstanding after it sold off the rest of its assets would have to be sold at a steep discount, becoming a loss for the system.

After the government instituted a plan in February to keep GERS solvent by using funds generated by rum taxes, the pressure was again put on the board to bring the loan program back.

Dawson told the board that the program should be running by the end of April.

GERS owns the land in Havensight used for the St. Thomas Hampton by Hilton. GERS is not investing in the hotel but only leasing the property to its developer.

The five-story, 126-room hotel with parking facilities and a visitor welcome center is expected to open in 2025.

Thursday’s meeting was not all positive news. Mary Morehead, a retired member of GERS, emailed the board to request the Public Finance Authority to give GERS millions. She wrote that GERS was in a shortfall because of a miscalculation in the Rescue Act.

CFO Denise Jeremiah told the board that $48 million had been collected in employee and employer contributions since Oct. 1. Dawson told the board that $101 million had been paid out in benefits. He added that 126 retirees had been added to the system in that period, while 106 had been deleted.

Board members Dwane Callwood, Vincent Liger, Andre Dorsey, and Leona Smith attended Thursday’s meeting.

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