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MTA backtracks on promised package of service improvements

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MTA backtracks on promised package of service improvements

By PETE DONOHUE

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

June 17th 2008

 

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Community Based Planning

Planned M.T.A. service improvements have been put on hold because of declining revenues.

 

The cash-strapped will not launch a $60 million service improvement package because it doesn't have the money, the Daily News has learned.

 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority last year unveiled plans that included more frequent bus, subway and commuter trains to soften the blow of fare hikes. The program was to be launched in phases starting this summer - if the authority could afford it.

 

It can't, sources said.

 

"A final decision won't be made on the enhancements until we report June revenue numbers next week, but revenues would have to turn around significantly as we are already $80 million behind in real estate taxes alone," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

 

The program would cost $30 million this year and twice that amount for all of next year.

 

The MTA receives revenue from taxes on certain real estate transactions, but those funds are well below projections.

 

State lawmakers are about to go home after failing again to enact legislation directing more taxpayer funds to support mass transit, raising the specter of more fare and toll hikes next year.

 

Meanwhile, some MTA board members yesterday expressed shock that MTA CEO Elliot Sander recently was granted a raise.

 

"I'm floored," said one board member after reading the Daily News' exclusive article on the pay raise. "We're trying to find ways to cut costs."

 

The member said the raise was a "symbolic" gaffe that sent the wrong message about the MTA's commitment to finding savings.

 

MTA Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger gave a $10,000 raise to Sander, lifting his salary and other benefits to $350,000. Hemmerdinger said the 3% increase was warranted in part because Sander could make far more in a private sector job.

 

Gov. Paterson declined to immediately comment on the appropriateness of the raise but did say, "At first blush, anything that involves money, even if it's slight, is a difficult issue for us right now."

 

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky (D-Westchester) said the issue detracts attention from the more serious problem of the MTA's massive budget gaps.

 

"Timing is everything in life," Brodsky said. They ought to chisel that on somebody's forehead.

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