Hot on the heels of the Governor’s controversial veto of one of Metro’s potential funding sources, there’s word that early auditing of Metro has found that the King County transit agency has excess capital reserves that can help with its budget crisis. It’s in the P-I:
Just as it faces a $168-million budget gap for 2010 and 2011, King County Metro Transit has $105 million more than it needs in its fleet-replacement fund, auditors said Tuesday.
The agency’s fleet fund has about $200 million and is projected to hit $300 million by 2025, because it brings in more than is needed for new vehicles nearly every year, Larry Brubaker, a senior principal management auditor with the county Auditor’s Office, told the County Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. “It brings into question why you’d need to maintain a large fund balance.”
Brubaker cautioned that the extra money is a one-time windfall, and said council members might want to spend it a bit at a time over several years.
The fleet funding was part of an overall finding that current Metro policies are putting more money than needed toward capital expenses and, therefore, should rework the distribution of revenue between capital and operations.
With much of Metro’s fleet facing retirement soon, we’re likely going to have to re-invest in this fund in the future. In the near-term, though, I think most of us would rather see service cuts that are less deep than worry about the fund’s balance sheet since no matter how you dice things Metro’s long-term outlook is unsustainable. However, there is nearly a universal tendency among transit agencies to sacrifice their capital goals for their operating ones, so that lost quoted paragraph in particular surprises us. We look forward to the full audit in September.
Also contained in the P-I article is the Governor’s explanation for her veto, after the jump…
Gregoire spokeswoman Laura Lockard noted that a 2005 law already allows local governments to impose a car-tab fee of up to $100 for roads and transit.
“There’s already an option out there,” Lockard said. She said Gregoire “felt that another $20 added on wasn’t necessary.”
The problem with the existing car-tab option is that it requires approval from all the local governments in an area, said Andrew Austin, policy associate with the Transportation Choices Coalition. “In a county as large as King County, it’s almost impossible to actually enact.”
The exact requirement is:
The interlocal agreement is effective when approved by the county and sixty percent of the cities representing seventy-five percent of the population of the cities within the county in which the countywide fee is collected.
That could be tough.