Tuesday, July 7, 2015 by Courtney Griffin

CTRMA approves plush FY 2016 budget

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority board of directors unanimously accepted the 2016 fiscal year budget Wednesday, and it is expecting to have about 123 percent of operating expenditures in reserves by June 30 next year.

Chief Financial Officer Bill Chapman said CTRMA is projecting about a 21 percent increase in total revenue compared to last year, meaning the authority expects to bring in about $65.7 million from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016.

In FY 2015, CTRMA’s tollway revenue was estimated at $34.4 million, but the authority expects to take in $45.2 million in FY 2016. CTRMA’s other main revenue streams include millions in video tolling, fees and grants.

According to budget documents, the estimate for a likely multimillion dollar bump in tollway revenue stems from an updated traffic study projecting increased tollway road use. But the amount could be higher, given that past traffic study results have conservatively estimated revenue streams from 183A and the Manor Expressway.

“You’ll see that we have an estimated cash balance at the end of this year of $39.5 million,” Chapman said at the regular meeting. “And I actually think we are going to be a bit higher than that total, but that was the estimated total when the budget was prepared.”

The authority’s expenditures, at least at first glance, are significantly higher than its revenue stream for FY 2016. CTRMA is projected to spend $92.1 million next year, Chapman said, but $31.1 million of its total expenditures are considered noncash accounting items, like scheduled debt payments, predicted asset depreciation, interest payments and bond issue costs.

The authority’s actual cash expenditures for FY 2016 are expected to be around $61 million, with $17.8 million in a one-time transaction going toward interest and payment of a 2011 bond. The remaining $43.2 million will be set aside for the year’s operating expenses, Chapman said.

The 6 percent increase in operating expenditures relative to last year’s budget is primarily due to a new, higher-service-level maintenance contract for area roads; replacement of the tollway video system on 183A; the addition of four new positions; and yearly depreciating infrastructure value, according to board documents.

The four added positions include a new communications director, an information technology manager in CTRMA’s Toll Operations Department, a position in the engineering department to assist road maintenance management and an administrative position to support both Toll Operations and Finance.

An additional $2 million in estimated expenses will come from the added processing costs incurred by toll collection for increased tollway traffic.

Chapman told the Austin Monitor that he recommended $52.8 million be set aside in cash reserves because of several large upcoming CTRMA projects, such as the 183 South/Bergstrom Expressway Project, the Oak Hill Parkway Project, the MoPac South Improvement Project and the 183 North Mobility Project.

“The board has a policy to keep one year’s worth of operating expenditure, including debt services, on hand,” he told directors. “We’re projected to have about $52.89 million on hand, so we’re overfunded by 123 percent. But in the future, we have some debt service payments coming up.”

As of June 1, 2015, CTRMA has $762.7 million worth of outstanding debt related to bonds issued as far back as 2010.

In a separate item, Chapman reviewed potential future funding sources for the upcoming $875.3 million Bergstrom Expressway Project. The authority is looking at possibly receiving a $288.6 million loan from the federal Transportation Infrastructure and Finance Innovation Act program, about $338.9 million in senior lien revenue bonds, about $147.8 in grant funding from the Texas Department of Transportation, $60 million in TxDoT loans and about $20 million in past bond revenue.

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budget: Income and expenditure for a set period of time.

Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority: The governing arm of Central Texas transportation. The board of directors is appointed by the governor and the Travis and Williamson County Commissioners Court. 1.5 stars on Yelp.

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