Ryan Coaxes Authorities Budget Office to Review NFTA
by Buck Quigley - posted 4:20 pm, January 19, 2012
Below is a press release just in from Assemblyman Sean Ryan’s office, with attached reply from the New York State Authorities Budget Office (ABO). This is newsworthy because it’s an example of a state office acknowledging that Ryan’s “request is both appropriate and within the mission and purpose of this office.”
New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan announced that the New York State Authorities Budget Office (ABO) had agreed to conduct a review of the finances and operations of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). In a letter to Assemblyman Ryan, ABO Director David Kidera said his agency would soon begin to meet with NFTA officials to start the process of conducting a review of the NFTA to discover the root of their problems. Facing a deficit of nearly $15 million, the NFTA recently announced plans to cut 22 percent of its service routes by April 1, and members of the public have contacted Assemblyman Ryan to express their concern about the cuts and the impact they will have on their daily lives. In December, Ryan sent a letter to ABO Director Kidera calling on the agency to conduct a review of the NFTA’s finances and operations. In his letter, Ryan noted that internal audits by the NFTA are insufficient to address their core problems, and a review by the ABO must take place.
“I applaud the ABO for agreeing to my request to undertake a review of the NFTA,” said Assemblyman Ryan. “The NFTA has historically always been searching for ways to achieve solvency because they are stretched too thin and are not focused on their core mission which is to provide public transportation. With a budget that is millions of dollars in the red, the NFTA has come up with what I think is misguided plan to slash service routes across the board. A review by the ABO will help to uncover the real drivers of the NFTA’s debt, and help them formulate a proper solution.”
In addition to calling on the ABO to conduct a review of the NFTA, Ryan held a public forum to address NFTA issues last week on January 12. At the forum many residents who rely on the NFTA expressed their concern and outrage over the planned cuts. Many riders said the NFTA is their only means of transportation to get to and from work, and they would be out of a job if their route was cut. Ryan told the audience that he would work to secure additional state aid for the NFTA, and was pleased that Governor Cuomo included some additional aid in his executive budget released on Tuesday. Ryan also urged those in attendance to attend any of the upcoming forums the NFTA has planned so that they may directly tell the NFTA how the proposed cuts would affect their daily lives.
“A financial crisis has led to the NFTA’s plan to eliminate dozens of service routes.” Ryan added. “Had their debt problems been resolved years ago, riders across Erie and Niagara counties wouldn’t be worrying about what will happen to the transportation they depend on.”
A copy of the Authorities Budget Office’s letter to Assemblyman Ryan appears below:
January 19, 2012
The Honorable Sean Ryan
Member of the Assembly
Room 324 Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12248
Dear Assemblyman Ryan:
The Authorities Budget Office (ABO) is in receipt of your recent letter requesting that we conduct a review of the finances and operations of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA). Your letter indicates that this request was made in response to pending service cuts, the potential elimination of jobs at NFTA, and the need to address impediments to the long term solvency of the Authority. You conclude by requesting that this review be undertaken in “a timely fashion” to avoid permanent disruption to the residents of Erie County.
The ABO has the power and duty to perform such analyses and reviews, to assist public authorities improve management practices, and to make recommendations concerning the performance and structure of state and local authorities. As such, your request is both appropriate and within the mission and purpose of this office. Since 2007, the ABO has completed 28 state and local authority reviews of various types and complexity.
In fact, the ABO has conducted reviews of the governance and financial practices of the Albany County Airport Authority and the Monroe Count Airport Authority. We have also provided training to the board of the Capital District Transportation Authority. As a result, the ABO is familiar with many of the issues facing transportation authorities.
It is our intention to be responsive to the concerns and requests of public officials. Accordingly, we will schedule a review of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority for 2012. In the interim, we could meet with representatives of NFTA to lay the groundwork for the review and to understand the particular challenges facing the board and executive management.