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With $400G Deficit, MART Anxiously Awaits State Funds

April 24, 2019

FITCHBURG -- With the state leaning toward increasing its annual financial allotments to regional transit authorities by up to $90 million, the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority is hoping it can help with its anticipated $400,000 deficit projected for fiscal 2020.

“We’ll be in much better shape (for fiscal 2020), said MART Deputy Administrator Bruno Fisher during the annual budget meeting for the public transportation service on Tuesday.

Mohammed Khan, the agency’s chief administrator, echoed Fisher’s remarks during the meeting.

“We are hoping to balance the budget using the $577,000 (increase) using the state funds. That should take care of our regular operations to continue what we’re doing.”

MART’s CFO James Sluss said the state-proposed $90 million increase in RTA allocations for the upcoming year would be the first since 2013. The state said in 2013 it would increase funding 2 1/2 percent each year, but that never materialized meaning its allocations to the RTAs have been flat for the last six years.

Despite the projected deficit, Khan said that with an agency like MART that has over $196 million in expenses and revenues, $400,000 is a “manageable thing... we’re in good shape financially.”

Sluss also said the agency has been aggressively cutting expenses over the last several years by doing things like replacing mercury vapor lights in the parking lots at commuter train stations and modifying fixed routes for increased efficiency.

He also pointed to increased revenues from the commuter train parking garages and said the number of cars using the lots actually increased after the rate increased.

Legal expenses were also lowered by $280,000 after a lawsuit involving the construction of the North Leominster Station parking garage was settled in favor of MART, said Sluss.

“It will be a great year,” said Sluss.