WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As they continue working to right the ship, the new board in charge of WAVE Transit has found a temporary solution for the troubled transportation system’s financial issues.
On Thursday, the new Cape Fear Public Transportation Authority, which is made up of a majority of city and county staff, with former City Council member Paul Lawler and current County Commission member Woody White as two additional members.
White took an active part in his first meeting with the board, asking WAVE staff as well as city and county staff many questions about the various contracts and obligations the system has in place.
As of the meeting, WAVE was still facing a $528,397 shortfall for the fiscal year that ends June 30.
That is on top of the budget violation they will already receive in this year’s financial statements, after the passed budget was unbalanced by $55,000.
Staff determined WAVE will be able to use the $700,000 loan that prompted the reorganization as a means to fill that gap without having to dip into the system’s already waning fund balance.
However, that will mean not paying back the loan by the June 30 deadline, triggering the clause of the resolutions passed by the city and county that will take away funding for WAVE in the next fiscal year.
This led to a lengthy discussion County Manager and board chair Chris Coudriet said was necessary.
“It was important that we work through it because, as you probably recall, WAVE asked for a loan from the city and the county as opposed to an additional appropriation. So what we wanted to make sure that the loan as the revenue could actually be used to balance the budget. That it wasn’t creating an additional liability.”
For the city and county, it will mean needing to pass budget amendments to either accept the failure to repay as an expense for 2020, or as some other type of receivable that will ensure their budgets also stay balanced.
White indicated he would be opposed to the funding simply being “written off” and never re-payed, so Coudriet said WAVE will likely need to consider the funding “loan proceeds” going forward.
A consulting firm has also been hired to conduct a review and evaluation of the operations of Wave Transit.
County officials say that TransPro has been contracted to perform a 60-day diagnostic review.
According to an email from County Manager Chris Coudriet to county commissioners, TransPro began its work ahead of Thursday’s Wave board meeting to provide a review of its early findings.
“The immediate work of Transpro is intended to guide the overarching reboot," Coudriet wrote. " In the interim, their work will focus on 1) establishing a budget framework for FY 21; 2) establishing parameters for consideration on the union negotiations as the agreement with the union expired last year; 3) determine if we can actually re-engage with First Transit for one year, which is the third party between Wave and the union as the contract expires June 30 of this year, and 4) offer opinion on the efficacy of Wave now and next fiscal year.”
Earlier this year, New Hanover County and City of Wilmington leaders announced they would examine the long-term future of the public transit authority, and Coudriet explained part of that decision included hiring an outside firm to help chart the path forward.
The board’s next meeting is on Thursday, March 26, with a work session scheduled for April to discuss Transpro’s findings.