After three days dodging Tough Questions, MARTA officials finally agreed to an on-camera interview after a new audit says big changes need to come to the transit system.
Even after five years of hiring freezes, furloughs and layoffs - more cuts are needed to keep the busses and trains running. An internal auditor said even though they already cut expenses, the economic downturn is really to blame for a $50 million budget shortfall.
"We understand that we have to change our business model to be sustainable," said MARTA auditor Robin Howard.
"We're talking about a lot of money," said CBS Atlanta reporter Steve Kiggins.
"There's a wide arrange that KPMG highlighted - anywhere from $60 million to $142 million," said Howard.
"Did MARTA not see these kinds of numbers coming?" asked Kiggins.
"I don't think anyone did," replied Howard. "This has been a national and even a global crisis. I don't think anyone could have predicted the sales revenues that have decreased."
Howard said MARTA's been working for years to reduce their costs with layoffs, furloughs and boosting employee's medical premium contributions. But the audit shows there's more work to be done.
"What you've done isn't enough?" asked Kiggins.
"Probably not," replied Howard. "But again, this is just another step in the right direction."
The audit shows MARTA could make up some of the difference by offering naming rights to their stations - increasing advertising on busses and upping parking fees for non-residents.
But a bigger problem could be the number of employees working for the transit system. MARTA may have to lay off more workers to stay in the black.
"MARTA's going to have to make some tough decisions. We have already reached out to the collective bargaining units, we have already negotiated some reductions that were highlighted in the report," added Howard. "It's not going to be easy, but we're committed to make sure we're going to get it done."
In addition to MARTA's financial challenges, CEO Beverly Scott is on her way out, which means the new CEO - when they choose one - is going to have to make the big cuts.
Copyright 2012 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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