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State comptroller’s annual MTA finance review warns of possible layoffs, growing budget gaps

2019-09-13

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is at a fiscal crossroads, with the threat of a $1.9 billion budget gap by 2023 and possible layoffs linked to staff reductions, according to the state comptroller’s annual review of the agency’s finances.

“This is a critical moment for the MTA and for riders,” said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli after the Friday release of his report. “As everyone agrees, the MTA needs to transform itself into a more efficient organization, improve service and modernize the system. If it fails, the consequences could be felt for years to come.”

According to the state’s top accountant, the MTA’s millions of riders could face “reduced services, unplanned fare hikes and deterioration of the system” if the financial crisis is not averted. Even if the MTA’s gap-closing program for its deficit is successful, that deficit would grow to $433 million by 2023, he said.

And the agency’s outstanding debt is projected to reach nearly $42 billion by 2022, according to the report.

DiNapoli’s assessment, issued less than four months before the start of the agency’s new fiscal year, mentions efforts to reduce MTA staffing by as many as 3,886 jobs, “which could require layoffs,” he noted. The job cuts would combine with rising fares and tolls as part of the agency’s plan to balance its 2020 budget while reducing future budget gaps.

DiNapoli, after looking into the future, noted the MTA’s recent past performance was lacking. As of this past June, the MTA had allocated only 65% of the funds committed to its 2015-19 capital plan — and finished only 25% of its planned projects.

The agency was also swamped by annual overtime payouts that grew by 143% between 2010-18, swelling to a record of nearly $1.4 billion at its peak.

An MTA spokesman did not immediately return an email asking for comment on the DiNapoli report.