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On account of appropriations by the legislative assembly
$67, 260. 65 For all services, public works, improvements, and
expenses incurred by and effected through the
3, 735, 136. 68 For the support of the judiciary.
493, 806.08 For miscellaneous purposes.
621, 278. 35 Or a total of...
4, 917,481. 76 Further disposition of available funds in loans to
municipalities and school boards, transfers and
2,319, 188. 10
Reducing the amount at the disposal of the government to..: 6,528, 636. 63 Disposition of trust funds, represented by payments to municipali
ties and school boards on account of taxes collected for them of
3, 856, 140.85
2, 672, 495. 78 Segregating from this the amount representing funds held in trust for specific purposes...
2,097, 185. 24 There remains available for expenditure under legislative appropriation..
575, 310. 54
OUTSTANDING BONDED INDEBTEDNESS.
The total bonded indebtedness of the insular government was increased during the year by $2,255,000, as follows: $200,000 harbor improvement bonds for San Juan Harbor; $1,000,000 public improvement bonds, the proceeds of which were used for roads and public buildings; $655,000 of refunding bonds used on account of the municipalities; and $400,000 of irrigation bonds for completing the irrigation works.
During the same period $200,000 worth of bonds were redeemed, of which $150,000 were irrigation bonds and $50,000 road bonds.
This brings the total outstanding bonded indebtedness on June 30, 1915, to $7,980,000.
The limit of indebtedness under the Foraker Act on the basis of present assessed valuation is somewhat in excess of $12,000,000; so that the above amount of bonded indebtedness is still well within the limit. However, an analysis of the above bonded indebtedness will show that nearly three-fourths of the total amount is not in reality a debt against the revenues and property of the insular government because it is amply secured by other property or revenue, which will secure its payment without any burden upon the revenues of the insular government. This will be made clear by the following analyzed statement:
The entire bonded indebtedness outstanding on June 30, 1915...
$7,980,000 Irrigation bonds secured by special tax upon the lands irrigated...
$4, 800,000 Bonds secured by collateral bonds of municipalities and school boards..
655, 000 Bonds secured by the San Juan Harbor dues.
2, 025, 000 Subtracting, therefore, from the total outstanding indebtedness all those forms of bonds for which the insular government holds collateral security sufficient to insure their payment, there remains a balance of only $2,025,000 for which the insular government is alone responsible, and funds for the payment of which must be provided out of the general revenues.
Taking into consideration all the circumstances, it is within the bounds of truth and moderation to say that the financial position of the insular government is as strong as it has ever been and that it has extricated itself from the somewhat difficult situation in which it has been placed during the past two years with frankness, fortitude, and courage.
The educational activities of the insular government are organized into a system of schools which are admirably adapted to the needs of the island so far as it has been possible to attempt to meet those needs. The system includes rural schools, graded schools, continuation schools, high schools, and special schools.
The number of school children (5 to 18 years) is 419,282, which is about 35 per cent of the total population, estimated at 1,200,000. The total enrollment of pupils for the year was 168,319. Of the total school population, 331,233 live in the rural area; of these only 27 per cent were enrolled in the rural schools during the past year. In order to accomplish this meager enrollment 91 per cent of the teachers were permitted to have double enrollment; and the average number of pupils to each teacher was about 63. Last year the average number to each teacher was 74. The reduction in the total enrollment was largely due to the ruling of the department cutting down the number of pupils allowed each teacher. In the cities and larger towns there are 88,000 pupils of school age. Of these about 74 per cent were enrolled. The continuation schools are in reality secondgrade high schools established in those urban centers which have not yet been able to establish regular high schools. These continuation schools give much attention to vocational training in addition to the first two years of regular high-school work. There are 30 such schools in the whole island with a total enrollment last year of 1,287 pupils. Only six of the larger cities and towns have thus far been able to establish regular high schools, namely, San Juan, Ponce, Mayaguez, Arecibo, Humacao, and Fajardo. The total enrollment in these six high schools last year was 1,678 pupils. Both kinds of these second grade schools above described are already overcrowded and becoming more so every year. More children are coming up from the lower
schools every year and asking for admission to the secondary schools than can be possibly admitted with the equipment and number of teachers that can at present be provided. This is a cruel and desperate situation, but there seems to be no alternative but to turn them away. Of course, what is needed is to gradually enlarge the facilities for secondary education to meet the demand occasioned by the output of the rural and graded schools, which output of course will increase as the number of the lower schools is multiplied. But it does not seem possible for the people of Porto Rico in the present condition of their financial resources properly to meet the imperative demand of their school system at both ends. The task seems too great. It is a pleasure, however, to record that much progress has been made and that much is now being done. The organization of the school system is excellent; the quality of the work is of a high order, and the amount of work accomplished, while it seems small as compared with the tremendous needs, is nevertheless large when compared with the equipment and forces available for use. High praise should be accorded to the personnel of the entire educational department. With thinning numbers and reduced salaries due to failing revenues they are battling bravely to maintain the fight against the dark array of illiteracy and ignorance that hangs like a pall over the island.
In the last annual report of the governor the fear was expressed that the attorney general's office would have great difficulty in properly carrying on the work of the department of justice, in view of the great reduction made in its budget at the last session of the legislature; and it has been only by strenuous efforts and with much overtime and night work that these difficulties have been surmounted and the work satisfactorily done. The legal personnel of the attorney general's office consists of the attorney general, his assistant, two law officers, and the special fiscal at large; and the fiscal of the supremo court, when not busy in court matters, also devotes part of his time to the general work of the office of the attorney general.
During the fiscal year 1914–15 the attorney general rendered 154 official opinions, of which 89 were rendered to the governor, executive council or heads of departments, and 65 to the various boards and branches of the insular government and to the municipalities.
The department of justice has rendered very valuable services in the direction of special investigations and criminal prosecutions, among which the most noteworthy ones have been the investigation and prosecution of the Mayaguez bribery cases and internal revenue frauds, in which important convictions were obtained, and the prosecution and conviction of three members of the board of pharmacy, charged with conducting a wholesale system of selling licenses.
The attorney general passed upon 82 applications for pardon or parole during the year, and as a result paroles were recommended in three cases.
In addition to the work already mentioned the attorney general's office devotes a great part of its time to the selection and careful study of the personnel to be recommended to the governor for vacancies in the positions of judges, marshals, and secretaries of the different courts, and also to the investigation of the great number of
charges, most of them unfounded, filed against such officials. Much time is devoted also during the session of the legislature to the work of drafting, revising, and analysis of bills introduced in the legislative assembly, and to the special work done for the franchise committee of the executive council.
The work of the supreme court was materially increased during the last fiscal year. The number of criminal cases docketed was 193, compared with 78 in the preceding year. The number of civil cases docketed was 188, compared with 168 during the preceding year. Of the number of cases in the criminal docket 127 had been finally decided and 66 remained pending resolution on June 30, 1915.
The services rendered by the district courts of the island during the year have been remarkable both on account of the great amount of work performed and the efficiency shown by the courts in the administration of justice. The report of the attorney general shows that although the number of criminal cases coming before the said courts during the year was almost twice as large as during the preceding fiscal year, yet the number of cases pending at the end of the fiscal year 1914-15 was only 377, as compared with 579 at the end of the preceding fiscal year.
The seven district courts disposed of 3,004 criminal cases, felonies and misdemeanors, and 2,990 civil cases. At the close of the year there were pending 3,800 civil cases, compared with 3,383 for the preceding year.
Of the 268 jury trials held in the district courts during the year 176 cases resulted in convictions and 92 in acquittals, showing a percentage of convictions of 65.66 per cent, which compares favorably with that of other years and with percentages in the United States. There were 249 felony cases tried by the courts without a jury, resulting in 238 convictions and 11 acquittals, this being equivalent to 95 per cent of convictions.
The record for the year shows that 33,328 criminal cases were presented in the municipal courts, this number being about 2,000 more than during the preceding year. At the close of the year there were pending in the municipal courts 2,047 criminal cases, compared with 1,228 for the preceding year. The municipal courts have not made a good showing in the handling of civil cases, as it appears th 5,492 cases were presented during the last fiscal year, and the number of cases pending at the close of the year amounts to 5,341. The record of the justice of the peace courts is practically the same as that of the preceding fiscal year. These courts are supported by the municipalities, and only one of them, that of San Juan, proved to be self-supporting.
An important amendment was made by the legislature at its last session with reference to the qualifications of municipal judges in municipalities of the first and second class. The substance of this new requirement is that the municipal judges of the said municipalities must be members of the bar of the supreme court of Porto Rico, and must have resided in the island of Porto Rico for a period of not less than two years. While the previous law required that municipal judges should be lawyers only in certain municipalities, the new law is applicable to 30 municipal judges out of a total of 34.
Another important change was made by the legislature in the system of collection of costs and fees in civil cases in the district and
municipal courts of Porto Rico. The new law provides a new schedule of fees and costs, which must be paid by the cancellation of internal-revenue stamps, doing away with the former evil practice of requiring the litigants to make a cash deposit. The new law has been practically tested during a period of four months, and is undoubtedly a great improvement over the old law.
The attorney general's office has during the year attended to the preparation of special forms, books, and blanks required for the enforcement of the juvenile-court act which took effect on July 1, 1915.
Immediately after the outbreak of the European war the department of justice, at the request of the governor, started an investigation to ascertain whether the increases in the prices of important articles of food were due to any concerted or illegal action. While the investigation revealed very little evidence of any advance in the price of articles purchased at lower rates and already in stock at the outbreak of the war, it failed to reveal any evidence of illegal combinations to restrict sales or to advance prices. The investigation, however, had a salutary effect in preventing illegal combinations and unfair increases in the prices of articles of food already in stock. The attorney general's office has rendered very important services in the conduct of litigations in which The People of Porto Rico was interested and for a detailed statement of the nature and importance of such work reference is made to the report of the attorney general appended to this report.
The bureau of labor, organized under the provisions of the act of March 14, 1912, has continued with constant and ever-increasing activity its work for the betterment of the conditions of the laboring classes of Porto Rico. Unfortunately, the results are entirely out of proportion with the efforts made, and it must be admitted that the conditions of the laborers have not improved in a noticeable manner during the last fiscal year.
During the active period of the sugar industry wages were increased 20 per cent, but as soon as the grinding season was over the former wages were reestablished. The wages paid to men employed in the coffee, fruit and tobacco plantations were the same as those paid in 1914. The sanitary conditions of the country houses and also of the tenement houses and factories have improved greatly during the last year, and this improvement is largely due to the spread of education through the public schools, especially through the rural schools.
The employment of young children in factories and in the fields has increased considerably, and it is believed that further restriction upon the employment of minors should be enacted not only as a measure of protection for the health of the growing generation, but also as a means for providing employment for the unemployed, the number of which has been considerably increased.
Two causes are assigned for the low wages prevailing in Porto Rico, first, the density of population of the island, on account of which the supply of labor is greater than the demand, making it necessary to employ a large number of men at a low wage, rather than increase the wages of a smaller number, leaving the rest of them without employ