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Port Authority ends fiscal year in the black

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Port Authority of Allegheny County started the past fiscal year facing a $64 million deficit.

The transit agency ended it with a $22.4 million surplus, officials said, thanks in large part to a deal resulting in sweeping union concessions and $34.5 million in emergency state and county funding. The surplus boosted Port Authority's reserve fund to $51 million.

“It's misleading to think there's that kind of money just sitting around the Port Authority,” said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Port Authority board members reviewed financial data from the fiscal year ended June 30 at a committee meeting Wednesday. Port Authority's reserve fund is now about 14 percent of the agency's $372 million budget.

Fitzgerald said the surplus will help cover anticipated deficits in coming years when employee raises kick in as part of a 4-year union contract signed in August.

“There's no unexpected windfall here. We made the commitment to the state and the governor to have enough to provide for the contract. Costs will rise in the outer years of the contract,” Fitzgerald said.

The deal reached last summer helped prevent historic 35 percent service cuts. Port Authority and county leaders obtained $25 million in worker concessions and came up with added local funding in exchange for $30 million in emergency state funding. The county's additional pledges — above its $27.7 million subsidy — included $3 million in funding from the Allegheny Regional Asset District and an extra $1.5 million from county drink-tax revenues.

“They agreed this would cover projected shortfalls in future budgets,” PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said of the surplus. “We wouldn't expect them to end the year with a zero balance.”

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, a frequent Port Authority critic, didn't object to the agency running a surplus while collecting emergency state funding.

“There's evidence they're moving in the right direction, but they have to (continue to) focus on operating expenses before looking for new revenue,” Turzai said.

Port Authority is again seeking$3 million in RAD money this year. RAD Executive Director David Donahoe said he hadn't yet reviewed the agency's funding application so he couldn't comment on Port Authority's funding request despite a surplus.

“A lot of organizations (funded by RAD) have a fund balance. That's not in and of itself an unusual situation,” Donahoe said.

Fitzgerald said the RAD money is necessary because the local match is part of the deal to get the state money.

RAD uses half of the proceeds from a 1 percent county sales tax to provide grants to libraries, parks, stadiums, cultural groups and other so-called regional assets.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7886 or bkerlik@tribweb.com.

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