Financial woes at the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority continue to dominate board meetings as officials review dipping into reserve funds to help support basic capital maintenance on the system.
The authority’s executive director, Alan LeBovich, last week proposed taking roughly $26 million from MassPike reserves in order for the authority to keep its roads and bridges in a state of good repair through fiscal 2009, which began July 1.
The board did not vote on the issue, yet approved a temporary operating budget for August and September. The authority has yet to approve a budget for the entire fiscal 2009.
MassPike board member Mary Connaughton said the board wanted to review any potentially negative consequences if the authority tapped into its reserve fund to help finance immediate capital improvements.
“We decided that we needed to understand more about the implications that dipping into our reserves would have with the credit rating agencies and how that would impact the rating going forward,” Connaughton said. “What we basically did was just pass a very small portion of the budget to just get through September and without dipping into the reserves to any large degree for the operating portion.”
MassPike is facing a $70 million deficit for the current fiscal year. As with prior meetings, board members discussed possible toll increases. In January, the board approved a modest toll increase in order to meet growing debt service payments, yet those hikes were not large enough to generate additional funds for capital improvements. MassPike may need to consider raising roadway tolls by 50% if the state does not come in to help the authority.