Stories indexed with the term ‘AATA budget’

AATA Makes Annual App for State Funds

The estimated expenses for the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s fiscal year 2014 budget are being reported to the state of Michigan as totaling $33,653,000. The amount is cited in the AATA’s annual application to the state for operating assistance under Act 51. That application was approved by the AATA board at its Feb. 21, 2013 meeting.

Those total expenses would be covered by the following breakdown of revenue estimates: federal funds ($4,276,104); state funds ($9,939,035); local funds ($12,088,861); fare revenue ($7,258,000); and other funds ($91,000).

The AATA’s current year’s budget – for FY 2013, which ends on Sept. 30 – calls for $32,700,181 in expenditures. So the currently estimated expenses for FY 2014 reflect an increase of about $950,000, or about 3%.

This … [Full Story]

AATA OKs Labor, Agency Fee Accords

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Jan. 17, 2013): Despite the passage of a right-to-work law by the Michigan legislature in late 2012, a new agreement between the AATA and Transport Workers Union Local 171 (TWU) maintains the same kind of agency fees that the legislation eliminated.

Charles Griffith, chair of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board

At right: Charles Griffith, chair of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board. On the left is board member David Nacht. (Photo by the writer.)

The AATA board ratified the 10-year agreement on agency fees in an accord that is separate from a 4.5-year agreement covering wages and benefits. The board approved both agreements at its Jan. 17 meeting. The agreement on agency fees takes advantage of the fact that the right-to-work law does not take effect until late March, and thus does not apply to agreements that are in place before then. It appears to be a strategy that employers statewide might use as a response to right-to-work, to the extent that they are willing to continue current agency fee arrangements. Agency fees are paid by non-union members based on the idea that they benefit from the union’s representation of their interests during collective bargaining.

The board’s vote on the two labor agreements was not unanimous. Eli Cooper dissented, based at least in part on the fact that the text of the two agreements was not available to all board members before they were asked to vote. David Nacht expressed support for Cooper’s point, but joined other board members in voting for the agreements.

Another vote that did not achieve unanimous support came on a resolution that expressed an intent to work with the board of the newly created southeast Michigan regional transportation authority (RTA) – which includes the counties of Washtenaw, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland, as well as the city of Detroit. The AATA board ultimately voted to table the resolution, with Jesse Bernstein and Anya Dale dissenting. Board members who were in favor of tabling felt that such a resolution was somewhat premature, pending the possible amendment of the RTA legislation, which passed late last year during the lame duck session of the state legislature.

The amendment desired by the AATA – which is supported by the Ann Arbor city council, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners, and the Michigan Public Transit Association – is for Washtenaw County to be excluded from the RTA at this time. AATA board discussion indicated that the window of opportunity for amending the legislation is likely to be the 90-day period for appointing RTA board members, which will close in mid-March.

In other business, the AATA board adopted a revised policy to be used in responding to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act. The board also adopted its categorical and capital grant program through fiscal 2017.

The treasurer’s report indicated a disparity between increasing ridership numbers and the amount of passenger fare revenue – a difference that is significant enough to warrant further inquiry.

Public commentary at the meeting featured a voice that was new to AATA board meetings but familiar as the film critic of the now defunct Ann Arbor News – Christopher Potter. Potter praised the quality of AATA’s service, but asked for weekend buses to run later than they do. [Full Story]

AATA Ridership Up, Fiscal Reserves Down

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Oct. 18, 2012): The recent AATA board meeting had a good-news, bad-news flavor.

Optimism was based on ridership data for the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 – which includes a record-setting 6,325,785 rides on the regular bus service, up 6.6% over the previous year, and 3.4% more than the previous record year of 2009.

AATA board member David Nacht expressed concern about the idea of adding back in project elements to the new Blake Transit Center, grounding his concern in part in the fact that he was wearing his "treasurer's hat."

AATA board member David Nacht expressed concern about the idea of adding back in project elements to the new Blake Transit Center, grounding his concern in part in the fact that he was wearing his “treasurer’s hat.” (Photos by the writer.)

Damping enthusiasm were the year-end budget numbers, which showed the AATA posting a deficit around $260,000 greater than the one it had budgeted for, leaving an excess of expenditures over revenues of $1,255,312. [.pdf of unaudited FY 2012 financials] That comes in the context of an approved budget for the just-begun current fiscal year, which includes an anticipated deficit of about $300,000. The board’s Oct. 18 deliberations revealed the fact that only by recalculating the amount in the AATA’s cash reserves did the organization currently have the required three-month operating reserve on hand.

In that financial context, board members were not inclined to add back in some elements that had recently been cut out of the new Blake Transit Center project, which would have brought the project budget to nearly $8.5 million. The construction contracts approved by the board at its meeting totaled a bit over $8 million, which was still dramatically larger than the smaller $3.5 million project the AATA had started with over three years ago. Instead of taking the less ambitious strategy, the AATA opted to locate the new, larger center on the opposite side of the same parcel where it currently stands. Construction on the two-story Fifth Avenue-facing center is now expected to start in late November or early December.

The board’s deliberations on the new transit center focused on whether to add back into the project some items that had been removed to bring the cost down from $8.5 to $8 million. Of the three items on the table – automatic ticketing kiosks, real-time bus arrival information displays, and LEED certification of the building – only the LEED certification was added back in, at a cost of $80,000.

At the Oct. 18 meeting, the board also got an update on the situation surrounding the incorporation of the new Act 196 board for The Washtenaw Ride. Michael Ford, AATA’s CEO, indicated that the AATA would be reimbursing Washtenaw County for the cost of renotifying jurisdictions in the county regarding their option not to participate in the new authority. He confirmed that AATA board members would not serve simultaneously on the current board and the board of the new authority, as previously expected. Ford indicated that AATA legal counsel believes that what the AATA has done to date already complies with the law, but the AATA is exercising extreme caution.

Several members of the future Act 196 board attended the meeting and had a voice at the table, but not a vote.

The board’s meeting concluded with a closed session lasting nearly two hours on pending litigation. [Full Story]

AATA OKs Smaller Budget, Drives Ahead

Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board meeting (Sept. 27, 2012): The main business transacted by the AATA board was approval of the operating budget for the coming year, which starts Oct. 1.

Charles Griffith looks at a budget spreadsheet during the Sept. 27, 2012 meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board.

Charles Griffith looks at a budget spreadsheet during the Sept. 27, 2012 meeting of the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority board. (Photos by the writer.)

Compared to an earlier draft budget, the one approved by the board was diminished on the revenue side by $800,000 in less-than-expected state operating assistance. Subsequent reductions in expenses still resulted in the need to use $300,000 in reserves to cover the gap. The reduction in state operating assistance for the AATA is related to a dramatic budget decrease by a Detroit transit agency – the state’s formula for making its allocations is sensitive to that.

The meeting’s budget discussion overlapped with conversation about the new transit authority, which is likely to be incorporated next week on Oct. 3. That’s the day after the AATA board is scheduled to meet in a special session, when it’s expected to request formally that the Washtenaw County clerk file articles of incorporation with the state. The new transit authority is to be called The Washtenaw Ride. Before any assets could be transferred from the AATA to The Washtenaw Ride, voters would need to approve a funding mechanism, likely through a millage to be placed on the ballot as soon as May 2013.

AATA board members made a point to stress that the planned operating deficits for the year that’s now ending (about $1 million) and the upcoming year ($300,000) are not sustainable. Instead, those budgets reflect an early implementation of some expanded services – like increased frequency on Route #4 between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti – which the AATA would like to implement more permanently in the context of the broader governance and service area of a new transit authority. Some currently expanded services might need to be scaled back if the new authority winds up being dissolved at the end of 2014 – a possibility if voters do not authorize the necessary funding.

The incorporation of the new authority has statutory implications. Because the incorporation of a new transit authority will include by default all the jurisdictions in Washtenaw County, the filing of the articles opens a 30-day window for jurisdictions to opt out of participation. That can be accomplished through a vote by a jurisdiction’s governing body.

The possibility of several jurisdictions opting out prompted the introduction of a resolution at the Sept. 27 meeting that was not originally on the agenda. That resolution was meant to clarify that the AATA board is keen to allow all the constituencies to be represented on the new authority that have been represented for about a year on the as-yet-unincorporated board – up to the point when a millage is placed on the ballot. That is, the current AATA board members – who will also serve on the new board – do not intend that their first response to opt-outs would be to alter the new board’s composition.

The articles of incorporation for the new authority specify an initial board membership of 15 members in eight districts. Altering that membership would, by the articles of incorporation, require a 4/5 majority (12 votes). So the resolution floated at the Sept. 27 meeting was intended to give assurance that the seven AATA board members – as future members of the 15-member board – would not want to alter the composition of the new board until a decision is made about putting a transit millage on the ballot. At that point, a change likely would be made to avoid the possibility of “representation without taxation.”

Representatives of three of the seven non-Ann Arbor districts in the new authority attended the AATA’s Sept. 27 meeting and participated in the discussion: Karen Lovejoy Roe (Southeast District); Bill Lavery (South Middle District); and David Read (North Middle District). Lovejoy and Read reacted to the uncertainty that the resolution was meant to address by questioning the timing of the planned incorporation.

Another significant business item transacted at the meeting was the contingent approval of a contract with URS Corp. to continue studying a possible transportation connector between the northeast and south sides of Ann Arbor. The authorization of the contract is conditional on additional local funding – in the amount of $60,000. The $60,000 would be part of a total $300,000 local match for a $1.2 million federal grant. The Ann Arbor city council had voted initially to reject a request that it provide the $60,000, but then reconsidered and postponed the question until Oct. 15. In the meantime, the board of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has indicated some willingness to make a contribution – $30,000 of the requested $60,000.

The AATA board’s Sept. 27 meeting marked Jesse Bernstein’s final meeting as chair. He’s led the board for the last two years. At the meeting, Bernstein alluded to the tradition of rotating the chairship of the board, a tradition he wanted to continue. The board elected Charles Griffith as chair. [Full Story]

AATA Projected FY 2013 Budget Takes Dip

While the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority’s draft budget had shown a small surplus for the upcoming 2013 fiscal year, the budget that the AATA board will be asked to approve at its upcoming Sept. 27 meeting will now show a $300,000 deficit.

The draft AATA budget provided on Sept. 12 to the city council as a communication item for its Sept. 17 meeting showed a surplus of $22,692 over the budgeted expenses of $33,344,048. However, on Sept. 14 the AATA was notified by the Michigan Dept. of Transportation (MDOT) that a new interpretation of the state’s operating assistance formula would reduce AATA’s assistance by $803,500. The AATA financial staff responded by reducing expenses, but left about $300,000 to be covered by the fund … [Full Story]