Cumberland County Commissioners rejects Capital Area Transit proposed 2017-18 budget

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CUMBERLAND COUNTY, Pa. –  At their Wednesday meeting Cumberland County Commissioners unanimously passed a Resolution expressing their opposition to the budget proposed by Capital Area Transit (CAT) management for 2017-18, and called on funding partners Dauphin County and City of Harrisburg to follow suit. The resolution cites gross fiscal irresponsibility as the basis for their call to reject the proposal when it is acted on by the CAT Board at its Thursday, May 4, monthly meeting.

Board Chairman Vince DiFilippo stated “We and others in the region have advocated long and hard in favor of PennDOT’s plan for regional transit consolidation because of the significant service improvements and cost savings it can deliver to the commuters and taxpayers of Central Pennsylvania. This budget is a major step in the wrong direction.”

Since 2014, Cumberland has made its funding for CAT conditional on progress towards regional consolidation, along with greater cost efficiency and transparency. The budget proposal comes less than one month after Cumberland Commissioners called on Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to investigate a questionable and overly generous second pension plan for CAT Executives. True to form the new budget calls for an average increase of 13% for executive compensation without substantiation based on performance, productivity or even cost of living. Commissioner Jim Hertzler characterized the proposed budget as “bloated” and “unethical” in that it transfers Cumberland’s funds for fixed route bus service to support CAT’s shared ride service for Dauphin and Harrisburg. Cumberland utilizes York based rabbittransit to provide shared ride services to its citizens.

The Resolution details many aspects of the proposed budget that “simply don’t make sense,” according to Hertzler. It calls for an overall increase in spending of 5% at a time when CAT’s overall cost structure is 50% higher than other transit authorities in the region. It adds 25 new positions, including 7 non-union positions; the latter would be eliminated to generate savings needed to qualify for local match waivers under PennDOT’s consolidation proposal.

CAT management seeks to pay for the increase in expenses with an 8% reduction in services. CAT’s already notorious cost of operations per passenger mile will go up significantly as a result. By not addressing the drivers of CAT’s high cost structure – namely rampant absenteeism and no-shows, it instead doubles the budget for overtime and increases the total number of

Commissioner Gary Eichelberger stated that main flaw in the budget is that it fails to take advantage of the economies of scale, local subsidy abatement or administrative savings that would come from PennDOT’s plan for regional transit consolidation; “All reasonable people should be appalled at CAT’s failure over many years to act as a competent steward of public funds. This budget proposal is just the latest example of CAT’s apparent determination to ignore the interests of both taxpayers and commuters. We look to regional transit consolidation to put an end to CAT and the unnecessary costs it imposes on the people of South Central PA.”

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