Maragos: "The litany of service delays, train cancellations, derailments and overcrowding appears to represent a failure of management, inadequate maintenance, poor planning and lack of investment in the LIRR."
Mineola, NY - June 29, 2017 - Commuters across Nassau County are suffering on a daily basis from an endless array of problems with the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) including broken rails, derailments, and signal problems causing service delays, and train cancellations. The public is entitled to answers regarding whether the approximately $28.5 million in taxpayer money paid annually to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for LIRR station operations and maintenance is well spent. With this objective, Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos sent an audit engagement letter to the MTA, on June 19, 2017. A start date of July 12, 2017 was recently mutually agreed. The $28.5 million annual payment is only a portion of the $143.3 million paid in 2016 to the MTA by Nassau County taxpayers excluding train fares.
“The litany of service delays, train cancellations, derailments and overcrowding appears to represent a failure of management, inadequate maintenance, poor planning and lack of investment in the LIRR,” said Comptroller George Maragos. The inadequate service is affecting our local economy by reducing productivity, and increasing traffic congestion and pollution. The economy will continue to be adversely affected unless we restore reliable LIRR service. Our audit will attempt to look at how well taxpayer money is spent by the LIRR in operating and maintaining the Nassau County system and by extension all of the LIRR system.”
The intent of the audit is to specifically examine how effectively Nassau County taxpayer money is spent by the MTA in providing the County’s LIRR rail operations and its associated management practices. The audit is expected to be completed in about 3-4 months assuming the MTA and LIRR cooperate.
Under New York State County Law § 577, a County Comptroller is granted the authority to “have general superintendence over the fiscal affairs of the county” as well as the authority to “audit all claims, accounts and demands that are lawful county charges”. Nassau County makes millions of dollars of payments to the MTA for the operation, maintenance and use of LIRR Stations located in Nassau County, as well as millions for the County’s matching portion for its State Transportation Operating Assistance (STOA) program for MTA’s commuter rail operations. This limited review will examine whether certain funds are being utilized in accordance with the law.
In 2016 Nassau County paid $143.3 million to the MTA/LIRR under various programs as follows:
$99.7 million or 0.375% portion of the County’s Sales Tax,
$28.5 million under the New York State Public Authorities Law for the County’s share of LIRR station operation, maintenance and use for those stations in Nassau County,
$11.6 million under the New York State Transportation Law for the County’s matching portion for its STOA payments for the MTA commuter rail operations,
$3.5 million “Payroll Tax”, for the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Mobility Tax, which is intended to provide funds for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which transports many of the region's commuters.