The V.I. Legislature approved two bills authorizing the Public Finance Authority to seek more than $90 million in new bond debt to fund energy conservation installations in the territory’s public schools and hospitals, as well as new police cars and an array of unfunded but shovel-ready capital projects.
The authorization covers a large portion of bonding recently approved by the V.I. Public Finance Authority, along with an array of new projects added by the Legislature.
The bills allow the PFA to sell bonds secured by either gross receipts tax revenues or by remitted federal excise taxes from the territory’s rum production, whichever provides a better rate.
Bill 29-0387 authorizes $35 million in new bond debt for energy conservation projects in 23 Education Department facilities and both hospitals, and are expected to ultimately save Education millions of dollars over time. Voting yea were Sens. Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Louis Patrick Hill, Usie Richards, Sammuel Sanes, Patrick Sprauve, Celestino White and Janette Millin Young. Voting nay were Sens. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O’Reilly and Terrence "Positive" Nelson. Sen. Neville James abstained. Sens. Craig Barshinger, Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, Ronald Russell and Alvin Williams were absent.
Bill 29-0385 authorizes $7 million in new bond debt to allow the V.I. Police Department to replace all of its 162 police cars, which all date to 2005, according to the VIPD; and $41.4 million for a laundry list of capital projects, including:
– $8 million, split evenly between the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital and the Schneider Regional Medical Center for "general improvements and deferred maintenance";
– $5 million to help with the closure of the Anguilla landfill on St. Croix;
– $4.5 million for phase II and III of the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School track on St. Thomas;
– $2.9 million to connect methane gas collection at Bovoni landfill on St. Thomas to the V.I. Water and Power Authority;
– $2.5 million toward construction of a permanent building for the annual Crucian Christmas Festival;
– $2 million for repairs to Fort Christian;
– $2 million to the Tutu Park library project;
– $2 million for roadwork in Frederiksted;
– $2 million for roadwork in Christiansted;
– $1.8 million to complete the Central High School track on St. Croix;
– $2.2 million to complete the Education Complex track on St. Croix;
– $1.5 million for the Charlotte Amalie High School track on St. Thomas;
– $1.5 million for reconstruction of the Public Works garage in Sub Base, St. Thomas;
– $1 million for work on the Leonardo "Nardo" Trotman Drive on St. Thomas;
– $600,000 for Monbijou Park bathroom repairs or installation;
– $500,000 for work on the Christiansted boardwalk;
– $300,000 for bathrooms at the ballpark in Estate Glynn;
– $150,000 for repairs to the Rudy Krieger Ball Park in Sion Farm;
– and $40,000 for bleachers in the Pedro Cruz Ball Park in Estate Profit.
The bill also authorizes the government to seek up to $32.2 million in bond debt for long-term financing of the local share of major broadband projects being financed by federal grants. The funding would replace an existing bank loan with a lower-interest government bond and so does not represent new debt but the replacement of high interest debt with lower interest debt. The two bills authorized a total of $83.4 million in new debt.
A last-minute amendment added:
– $5 million to the V.I. Economic Development Authority’s Save A Building Program to provide low interest loans for rehabilitation of buildings in all designated enterprise zones with interest rates not to exceed 2 percent.
– $2.5 million for a loan to the UVI Research and Technology Park to complete construction of multi-tenant headquarters building at the entrance to the UVI St. Croix campus;
– $1 million for mold remediation in V.I. Legislature capitol building;
– and $1 million for initial funding for the development of an arts and technology institute to be developed by the National Center of the Arts.
The amendments added $9.5 million for a final total of $92.9 million in new debt.
Voting yea were Dowe, Hill, Malone, Richards, Sanes, Sprauve, White and Young. Voting nay were James, Nelson and O’Reilly. Absent were Barshinger, Hansen, Russell and Williams.