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Transit Authority faces tough roadblocks ahead

May 29, 2003|BY DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Transit Authority needs a recovery plan and a budget, but both may be hard to come by before July 1 when the new budget year begins.

"Given the magnitude of the debt, I don't see that we can put together a recovery plan to present to council," Chambersburg Borough Manager Eric Oyer said Wednesday. "They have liabilities in excess of $1 million and their assets are minimal."

Oyer said the borough council wanted to see a business plan with debt reduction before it would agree to allocate any local matching funds for the system. He and Joanne Cochran, the director of Keystone Health Center, had been working with the authority on the plan until last week.

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"We could not make the numbers work," Oyer said. Even if the state and federal indebtedness is forgiven, Oyer said he and Cochran determined CTA could still not pay off its vendors.

"Let's put it together with a budget and get it to the state and let the state determine if it's realistic," CTA President James Jenkins said Wednesday of a recovery plan.

"PennDOT's not going to do anything until we do something," he said of receiving new funding.

With no recovery plan in the works, however, the prospects of coming up with a budget acceptable to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation are jeopardized. The department requires local matching funds from the municipalities served by the authority, according to Louise Tinkler, manager of rural and inner city programs.

The borough contributed $40,609 to the system this year, Oyer said.

In March, the system scaled back from seven routes to just one serving the Chambersburg area. The route serving Waynesboro, Pa., and Washington Township, Pa., shut down, but there is still a demand for public transportation, according to Township Supervisor Mike Christopher.

"Washington Township would be interested in reviewing any proposal CTA presents for resuming service in this area," Christopher said. A meeting with authority officials earlier this month in Waynesboro attracted about 75 people, mostly senior citizens, who want service resumed, he said.

Any budget presented to PennDOT will have to include a scope of services, along with estimated expenses and revenues, Tinkler said. Up to 50 percent of the difference between expenditures and revenues is reimbursable through federal subsidies, she said. State lottery funds are also used to subsidize public transportation.

An independent audit reviewed at Tuesday's transit authority meeting estimated its debts at $1,050,000 for the end of the 2002 budget year, compared to $321,000 in assets. Much of the debt is reimbursements owed on state and federal subsidies earmarked for capital expenditures that were used for daily operations costs.

Looking at a combination of that audit and other financial records obtained from CTA earlier this month, Oyer said the authority appears to owe in excess of $600,000 to state and federal agencies and more than $400,000 to vendors.

The authority's board of directors decided Tuesday to continue operations on a day-to-day basis.

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