LANL cutbacks impact NCRTD

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By Arin McKenna

At a board meeting of the North Central Regional Transit District last week, a six-month financial report revealed that reduced Gross Receipts Tax from Los Alamos National Laboratory has impacted the NCRTD’s budget. 

Los Alamos County’s share of GRT payments to NCRTD is largely determined by the lab’s GRT. Revenues from the county were significantly less than anticipated in both July and September. July revenues were down 71 percent ($124,560 actual instead of the projected $176,002). September revenues were $263,631, 78 percent of the projected $336,445.

NCRTD was also affected by LANL’s overpayment to Los Alamos County in FY2011. The transit system’s share of reimbursement is $65,391, putting October’s revenues 24 percent below the projection.

Losses from Los Alamos County are balanced in part by revenues from other counties in the system. Santa Fe and Taos Counties’ revenues were four to eight percent higher than expected. 

“The reduction of GRT from the lab will obviously have an impact on all government entities that rely on it. I think for the foreseeable future, we should not expect GRT levels to rise.  For the current budget year through June 2013, the NCRTD appears to have sufficient reserves. Beyond that, we will have to plan and act accordingly,” board member Geoff Rodgers of Los Alamos said.  

“I think it is normal that public entities tend to grow into the available funding both programmatically as well as staffing. The hard part comes when the high water mark of tax revenue recedes and reductions have to be made. It is important to maintain a semblance of balance across both sides of the equation while trying to maintain an adequate level of service.”

The board also adopted new performance measures for FY13. The new system of measurement uses Sandoval/Valencia Counties as a benchmark similar to NCRTD’s rural transit system. 

A report included statistics on performance from FY10 through the start of FY13. 

Public Works Director Philo Shelton, the county’s alternate on the NCRTD board, called the report “the best part of the meeting.” 

“The report had a lot of good things to say about the performance of the system and how well it’s been working,” Shelton said. “The board was very happy about the performance of the system. When you can get your customers satisfied, that’s important.”

The report showed that NCRTD’s operating costs are half of what Sandoval/Valencia Counties spend and that cost per customer averages $16 as opposed to $21 for Sandoval/Valencia. 

The board was especially pleased with the accident report, which revealed the last major accident was on Dec. 7, 2010. FY12 had one minor accident in September. Drivers have logged 245,760 miles since the last minor accident and 1,721,257 miles since the last major accident. 

The performance report also tracks complaints from July through November. The number of complaints ranged from three in October to nine in July and November, representing from 0.02 to 0.05 percentage of ridership. Five of the complaints were about scheduling errors on a day when dispatchers had to fill in driving due to a shortage of drivers. The complaints were all investigated and appropriate action taken on legitimate complaints. 

The board was also prepared to discuss and possibly ratify a contract negotiated between the district and Chauffeurs, Teamsters and Helpers Local No. 492, but NCRTD drivers rejected the contract. The union will now have to meet with their members to discover what the issues are so the contract can be renegotiated.

Reductions in service for the Las Trampas Route were also approved. 

NCRTD was running five trips between Chimayo and Las Trampas at an annual operational cost of $148,669. The route averaged 2,106 one-way trips a year, equating to approximately $70 per rider per trip. That is 330 percent over an average cost of $20.70 per trip. In order to be sustainable, ridership would have to double in order bring the cost to $35 per trip. 

Public input advocated for reducing the number of trips rather than discontinuing service. The board voted to keep one route in the morning and another in the afternoon. Riders will be surveyed to determine if there is a need for a morning commuter bus, which could be added on a trial basis. 

 The board’s next meeting is at 9 a.m. Feb. 1, at the Jim West Transit Center, 1327 N. Riverside Dr., in Española.