Hot on the heels of the Governor’s controversial veto of one of Metro’s potential funding sources, there’s word that early auditing of Metro has found that the King County transit agency has excess capital reserves that can help with its budget crisis. It’s in the P-I:

Just as it faces a $168-million budget gap for 2010 and 2011, King County Metro Transit has $105 million more than it needs in its fleet-replacement fund, auditors said Tuesday.

The agency’s fleet fund has about $200 million and is projected to hit $300 million by 2025, because it brings in more than is needed for new vehicles nearly every year, Larry Brubaker, a senior principal management auditor with the county Auditor’s Office, told the County Council’s Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. “It brings into question why you’d need to maintain a large fund balance.”


Brubaker cautioned that the extra money is a one-time windfall, and said council members might want to spend it a bit at a time over several years.


The fleet funding was part of an overall finding that current Metro policies are putting more money than needed toward capital expenses and, therefore, should rework the distribution of revenue between capital and operations.

With much of Metro’s fleet facing retirement soon, we’re likely going to have to re-invest in this fund in the future. In the near-term, though, I think most of us would rather see service cuts that are less deep than worry about the fund’s balance sheet since no matter how you dice things Metro’s long-term outlook is unsustainable. However, there is nearly a universal tendency among transit agencies to sacrifice their capital goals for their operating ones, so that lost quoted paragraph in particular surprises us. We look forward to the full audit in September.

Also contained in the P-I article is the Governor’s explanation for her veto, after the jump…

Gregoire spokeswoman Laura Lockard noted that a 2005 law already allows local governments to impose a car-tab fee of up to $100 for roads and transit.

“There’s already an option out there,” Lockard said. She said Gregoire “felt that another $20 added on wasn’t necessary.”

The problem with the existing car-tab option is that it requires approval from all the local governments in an area, said Andrew Austin, policy associate with the Transportation Choices Coalition. “In a county as large as King County, it’s almost impossible to actually enact.”

The exact requirement is:

The interlocal agreement is effective when approved by the county and sixty percent of the cities representing seventy-five percent of the population of the cities within the county in which the countywide fee is collected.

That could be tough.

17 Replies to “Metro Audit Finds $105m in Reserves; Gov Explains Veto”

  1. I had no idea that taxing authority existed for counties, but yeah, it’s obvious that King County would never be able to pass that car-tab-for-transit thing.

  2. Whew, that was a close one. It even had Rep. Eddy scratching her head for a second.

    I have a feeling the Governor sometimes operates in a space where she’s dealt with some of these questions before as AG but is probably so tied into that mindset she probably isn’t prone to explaining them outright since it probably seems pretty obvious to her. The “well, it just is” sorta mindset, where she’s probably right but it’d be good if she explained it to some extent.

  3. Taking funds from fleet replacement concerns me. After 2 years riding in Seattle, I was on my first bus that had to be put out of service mid-route due to a maintainance issue about a month ago. Since then, I have passed two buses sitting on the side of the road with orange hazards behind them. Hopefully this is just coincidence.

    1. I want to clarify that this wouldn’t be taking money away from fleet replacement. Metro’s fleet replacement funds will still be fully funded on an annual basis, with a $95 million fund balance remaining in the account as a reserve if the $105 million in excess fund balance is transferred out. No one is trying to rob Peter to pay Paul here. It’s more a case of realizing, wait we’ve been overpaying Peter for so long that he’s got $105 million extra sitting in his piggy bank and meanwhile Paul is coming up short.

      Leah Zoppi, legislative aide to King County Councilmember Larry Phillips

  4. The reality is that there have only been 9 TBDs set up thus far. While I haven’t read all of the 9’s implementing regs, I don’t think any of them have given any money to transit. So TBD’s brief history tells us and likely predicts that few (if any) local govs that go through the hassle of setting up a TBD would prioritize transit in the future. Any why would they – local govs need money too. And TBDs are one of the few funding authorities they have.

    We shouldn’t be pitting cities and counties against transit in their extremely legitimate demands for increased revenue options. That’s what this existing authority does.

  5. I forget, can Gregoire run again for another term? Sometimes, I wonder if Rossi would have been a better Executive.

  6. So why is the governor the first person to figure this out? If we had known, maybe we could have instead passed a law that amended the existing taxing authority to make it easier to access or something.

    1. The governor did not “figure this out.” It is a bogus justification. If there was any interest in helping transit, then King County’s MVET for transit idea (as mitigation for the Seattle viaduct/tunnel)would have been embraced rather than considered DOA.

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