Home Commentary Op-ed OFFICIALS SLOW ON THE TAKE OF A CITIZEN'S GIFTS

OFFICIALS SLOW ON THE TAKE OF A CITIZEN'S GIFTS

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Suppose you wanted to do something personally to help pay down the Virgin Islands' billion-dollar indebtedness. What would happen if you were to send a personal check to a top V.I. government official as a volunteer contribution to the cause?
Very little, in this Source reporter's experience. And v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y.
Here are the results of a small, non-scientific survey conducted by this reporter. On Jan. 1 of this year, I sent personal checks for $50 and accompanying letters to the Office of the Governor, the Office of the Lieutenant Governor, the director of the Public Finance Authority, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget. There were four checks in all, $200 worth, all told.
Each letter stated that the accompanying check was intended to help with the debt and that the "pay to" line had been left blank; the recipient was to fill them in and deposit the check in the appropriate government account. Further, each letter stated that if the sender were to receive a letter in return giving him the correct account title for such checks, he would send a second check as well.
Almost two months passed before there was any sign of activity. I get my checks back late in the month, every month. There was nothing in the late January bank statement.
When the late February bank statement arrived, it showed that two of the four checks, had, in fact been deposited. When the late March statement arrived, there was still no sign of the other two checks, meaning they were still outstanding.
At this writing there have been no letters received in return indicating the correct title for the account. No one in any of the four offices troubled themselves to write the one- or-two sentence letter that would have produced a second voluntary check for debt payment. And there were no thank-you notes, either.
Assuming that the second checks also would be for $50 each, the V.I. government was, in effect, offered a $400 contribution. The territory managed, over three months, to collect only $100 of this sum.
The two government offices that deposited the initial checks were the Office of the Governor and the Office of Management and Budget. The checks sent to the Lieutenant Governor's Office and that of the director of the Public Finance Authority remain, to my knowledge, undeposited.
I am left to speculate: Maybe the territorial government and related agencies do not realize that they are a billion dollars in debt? Maybe depositing a check into a government account is too taxing a task for some government offices?
Meanwhile, I know that the checks cashed will be regarded, under the IRS code, as contributions to a charity, and I can claim them next year as deductions on my federal and state income tax filings.

Editor's note: David S. North, a semi-retired former federal employee living in the Washington, D.C., area, reports and writes frequently for the Source on government affairs and economics.
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