City Manager O’Connell highlights issues facing a Regional Transit Authority

At the very end of City Council’s meeting on September 15, 2008, City Manager Gary O’Connell told Councilors that he had prepared a fact sheet laying out “some things to consider” as they pursue a Regional Transit Authority (RTA). Minutes later, the Council had just reaffirmed their commitment to the pursuit of enabling legislation to enact a one-cent sales tax increase to pay for transit and road projects .

The item was not included in Council’s packet, but O’Connell said he wanted Councilors to consider “some of the more practical issues, hurdles that we have to face if we would get money and if you seriously consider legislation to go to the General Assembly.”

Charlottesville Tomorrow obtained a copy of the memo , which contains seven numbered items describing various aspects of how the Charlottesville Transit Service (CTS) might be affected if it transitions to a structure that is jointly run with Albemarle County.

The nearly $6 million 2008 CTS operating budget is funded 79.3% by the City and 20.7% by the County. In his memo, O’Connell points out that the current proposal for the RTA’s governance is to have an even split between City Councilors and Albemarle County Supervisors.

“The issue of weighting votes by members of the board of the RTA needs to be determined,” O’Connell wrote. He went on to point out that the City  has a current depreciated value of $32 million in CTS assets.

Furthermore, a “large number” of CTS employees are enrolled in the City’s retirement program. O’Connell speculates that the RTA employees would likely be in the Virginia Retirement System. He also pointed out that the City currently provides $400,000  in “support services” to CTS, costs which would the RTA might have to reimburse the City for. His memo did not specify what these services are.

So far the working group of Councilors and Supervisors discussing the RTA have not seriously discussed the cost allocations, but instead have been using their time at weekly meetings to discuss the enabling legislation , funding for the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Council’s work on the RTA , as well as strategies to broaden public support for the idea.

“The issue of how to allocate the cost of regional transit services between members of the RTA needs to be determined,” O’Connell wrote to conclude his memo.

Sean Tubbs