By Paul Gable
The controversy generated by a county budget amendment regarding a Coast RTA revenue grant, added during third reading of the Fiscal Year 2014 county budget, appears to be the result of lack of communication between county and Coast RTA officials.
A two hour meeting with Coast RTA officials last week revealed how the potential loss of a county payment to Coast RTA of $263,758, for the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2014, would result in a total loss to Coast RTA of $599,733.
The potential loss of the county grant payment costs Coast RTA an additional $236,523 in matching federal funds, $50,000 in ad revenue and $49,460 in lost passenger fares from two routes that will be cut, Entertainment Express and Airport to Ocean Boulevard. The Coast RTA budget, submitted to the Federal Transportation Authority must reflect these potential cuts.
The federal/local split on operations grants is essentially 50/50. The split on capital grants is 80/20 (federal/local). Most of the funds from the county are used for operations.
Federal law requires local matching funds must be free of any restrictive provisions in order to be eligible for federal matching funds and included in the transportation agency budget.
The budget amendment passed by county council last week, restricting release of the fourth quarter payment pending a later resolution by county council, is a restrictive provision eliminating those funds from being included in the Coast RTA budget, by federal law.
That is a quick overview of how the Coast RTA FY 2014 budget will be affected if the county fourth quarter grant payment is not restored to the budget in the next several months.
What also came to light over the course of the meeting is an apparent lack of communication between county officials and Coast RTA officials.
Included in discussion of the budget amendment at the June 18, 2013 regular meeting of county council, was the question of progress on reconstitution of Coast RTA board membership to better reflect the county’s relatively large contribution toward Coast RTA local grant revenue.
The county provides approximately $1.06 million of total local grant contributions of approximately $1.735 million (neither figure includes the potential county payment cut). The county has one board appointment, of a total of nine members. It would like that changed to three members, a change that requires a modification in state law.
Council member Gary Loftus, who represents the county on the Coast RTA board, said he had reminded Coast RTA officials in January 2013 that council expected progress on reconstitution of Coast RTA board membership.
Coast RTA CEO Myers Rollins said he and other officials of the transportation agency did not remember such a statement and could not find any record of it in a review of Coast RTA board meetings videotapes. He also said it was not an issue discussed during Coast RTA presentations to the spring 2013 county budget retreat.
Rollins said he was astounded by Loftus’ statement at the council meeting. However, Rollins did not challenge the statement during the council discussion, giving it the effect of being fact whether it was or not, and did not explain specifics of the totality of budget cuts the county budget amendment caused.
Lack of communication by both sides.
Resolution of the current problems, a possible cut of county grant funds and matching federal funds to Coast RTA and progress toward reconstitution of the Coast RTA board membership, is relatively easy to accomplish.
But, it is going to take both sides talking and working together with help from the county legislative delegation on the state law change.
We’ll have to wait and see how well this is accomplished.