To help mitigate the potential financial crisis facing the U.S. Virgin Islands, Governor Kenneth E. Mapp recently ordered dramatic cuts in overtime work hours as he reviews ways to keep the Territory’s government operational.
The Virgin Islands Police Department (VIPD) became one of the first public agencies to drastically reduce its overtime work hours in response to these orders. The move has been met with disdain by officers throughout the Territory.
Reports have emerged of dips in officers’ morale since the action. Many depended on their overtime pay to be part of their family budgets, with some even taking out mortgages based on the assurances that they would consistently receive the extra pay. Police Commissioner Delroy Richards responded by saying it is never a good idea to do this, as overtime is never guaranteed. Instead, he said officers should develop their personal budgets based on their regular salaries.
Richards also noted a longstanding need for there to be controls in place to limit overtime at the VIPD to improve the agency’s financial stability. A 2015 report found that overtime cost the department about $11 million per year. The Commissioner said that officers sometimes rack up an “enormous amount of overtime, and the productivity can’t be justified.”
What are the extent of the cuts?
A recent document published by the Virgin Islands Consortium details just how significant the cuts are to overtime pay in the police department.
Any officers who have an annual salary of under $40,000 will have their biweekly overtime cut down to 16 hours. Those who make between $40,000 and $55,000 will get 14 hours of biweekly overtime, those with salaries of between $55,000 and $60,000 will receive 12 hours of biweekly overtime work and those making $60,000 to $65,000 will get 10 hours of biweekly overtime work. Officers who make more than $65,000 annually will get just eight hours of biweekly overtime.
According to the document, these drastic overtime reductions are the VIPD’s alternative to laying off or furloughing employees. Additionally, the document notes that any “exceptional circumstance” instances of overtime must be approved by the deputy chief, chief or higher-ranking official within the department before officers’ clock in for overtime. For example, a captain, lieutenant or commander may not work holiday overtime without getting approval from the proper authorities.
It remains to be seen how these cost-cutting measures will affect the police force’s ability to continue improving public safety throughout the territory. St. Croix, for example, has had only one homicide so far in 2017, which public officials believe is in large part due to improved police patrolling.
In the wake of Puerto Rico’s debt struggles in recent years, it appears that the U.S. Virgin Islands government is looking at a variety of options to avoid the same fate here in the Territory. If you have any questions about how these cuts could impact you or your business, speak with a knowledgeable government relations attorney.
Tom Bolt is Managing Attorney and Chair of the Government Relations Practice Group at BoltNagi, PC which staffs experienced government relations attorneys who proudly assist clients throughout the U.S. Virgin Islands.