This Albuquerque Free Press article explores the question where will the city get the money to complete the Albuquerque Rapid Transit project if doesn’t get the $69 million federal transit grant it has applied for?
I was delighted to make a comment for the article.
City officials are saying the city has an extra $69 million to complete the $126 million ART project by the end of the year, but they are not saying where it’ll come from.
The one glaring and surprising mistake in this article is where our State Auditor and candidate for Mayor Tim Keller says he suspects that Berry’s administration could find ART bus money in the city’s risk management fund.
Keller should know better to even make the suggestion.
The City of Albuquerque is a “self-insured entity”, meaning that by state law a certain percentage of projected liability losses from lawsuits and injury claims against the City must be set aside to avoid being required to secure a liability insurance policy by the State.
The City could never afford such a policy and that is why it is self insured under state law.
The penalty for not adequately funding the risk management fund as required by law is the city loosing its “self insurance” status and certificate which is quite serious and would probably have an impact on our bond ratings.
During the last 7 years, Albuquerque has paid out of the risk management fund over $60 million dollars to settle police misconduct cases for deadly force and excessive use of force cases.
The city has a Risk Management Director and claims adjusters and all payments out of the risk management fund must be approved by the Risk Manager and/or the Claims Review Board.
Raiding of the risk management fund for a capital improvements project such as the ART Bus project is clearly illegal.
Councilor Pat Davis saying the city could use federal highway fund money it gets that is administered through the Mid-Region Council of Governments to make up for the $69 million loss for the ART bus project is very embarrassing and reveals he has no idea what he is talking about.
Dave Pennella, the Metro Planning Organization administrator for MRCOG, disputed Davis’ claim by saying “The money cannot come from any other federal funding sources that we have.”
Then you have City Councilor Diane Gibson saying she didn’t know where the city would find the money for the ART Bus project if the $69 million grant is not approved saying “It would really be nice to know”.
Diane Gibson is my City Councilor and has voted repeatedly for the ART Bus project and funding.
Gibson said to a neighborhood association meeting she “was tired of carrying the Mayor’s water” on the ART Bus project.
Gibson voted to spend the $69 million federal grant money that has yet, and may never be, appropriated by congress.
It would have been nice for Diane Gibson to have asked a few questions where the money would come from if the $69 million grant money is not forthcoming.
The truth is, the money will probably have to come out of the general fund and will have to be approved by the City Council or the City will need to find another funding source such as to issue revenue bonds.
The City Council could even enact a one-eighth of a cent gross receipts tax with a sunset clause.