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V.I. Lottery to Pay GERS $2.1 Million in Bonuses After Years of Incomplete Funding

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It is now up to Governor Albert Bryan to decide whether to greenlight payments from the V.I. Lottery to the Government Employees’ Retirement System of $2.1 million owed to the pension system for fiscal years of 2021 and 2022.

Legislators are demanding that the VI Lottery appropriate $2,158,272 to GERS to cover annual bonus shortfalls that it had failed to apply during those years when it saw significant profits. 

Thirteen senators on the Committee on the Whole voted on Tuesday for the organization to pay $961,705 to the retirement system for fiscal year 2021 by September 30, 2022, and also transfer $1,196,567.00 for the fiscal year 2022 by October 31, 2022. In turn, GERS would make those payouts to the affected retirees by December 1, 2022.

Bill No. 34-0333 was sponsored by Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory, who last month pointed to discrepancies in the transfer of annual contributions for the Special Education Initiative Fund and the retiree’s bonus which resulted in the V.I. Lottery giving less monies than it is mandated to. 

The V.I. Lottery is obligated to pay 15 and 10 percent respectively, of its net income into those funds, according to Chapter 13 of the Virgin Islands Lottery Act under Powers and duties of the Commission.

However, in regards to GERS, the organization has consistently applied only the section which speaks to a payout of $2.27 million – which was at times less than 10 percent of what the lottery collected in revenue, although the law explicitly states that the amount to be paid is 10 percent but no less than $2,270,000. By specifically stating an amount, the law factors in years when the 10 percent does not amount to $2.27 million. 

But the bill’s sponsor documented that the V.I. Lottery had failed to transfer the required amounts in fiscal years 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022. However, since the Legislature in Act No. 8578, appropriated $3,434,994.14 to retroactively pay retirees their annual bonus pay shortfalls for fiscal years 2018, 2019, and 2020, they were not required to make good on those deficit years.

According to the VI Code, the V.I. Lottery is required “To transfer not less than $2,270,000 from the net income of the lottery from all games authorized by this section to the Government Employees’ Retirement System before July 15 each year to be used exclusively as an annual bonus payment for annuitants and pensioners pursuant to Title 3, Chapter 27, Section 729 (b) of this Code. The sum may be paid in quarterly installments to the retirement System so long as the total amount is received before July 15.”

When the VI Lottery came before the Committee on Finance in August, Executive Director Raymond J. William said the entity’s legal counsel had already begun to look at the discrepancies with a mind to better understand it. He proposed then that legislators along with the Lottery review the legislation together, but concluded that the entity may have “another interpretation” of the law.

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