SSA board approves rate hikes in 2013 operating budget

The Steamship Authority members met on Tuesday, October 23, and approved an $83 million operating budget for 2013 that includes hikes in the auto excursion rate and annual parking permits.

The meeting, originally scheduled for Oak Bluffs as part of the boatline’s rotating port schedule, was moved to the SSA office in Woods Hole so Nantucket member Flint Ranney, who was unable to travel, could participate by speaker phone.

In order to cover next year’s cost of service, the boatline expects to generate an additional $1,500,000 from rate increases (approximately $500,000 from the Martha’s Vineyard route and $1,000,000 from the Nantucket route) in order to arrive at a projected net operating income next year of around $3,180,000.

On the Vineyard route, the regular one-way auto rates will increase by $1 year-round and the round-trip excursion rates (for both automobiles and commercial vehicles under 20 feet) will increase by $2 year-round. The cost of annual and seasonal parking permits at the Woods Hole and Falmouth offsite lots will increase by $25 effective May 15, 2013.

Nantucket auto rates, parking rates and passenger rates will increase across the board.

Vineyard member Marc Hanover said the SSA had not raised rates in three years. He described the increases as modest and said the boatline remains financially healthy. “I don’t think that $1 in three years is excessive,” Mr. Hanover said.

The SSA’s total operating expenses in 2013 are expected to approach $83,050,000, which represents an increase of more than $3,250,000, or 4.1 percent, in total operating expenses.

The most significant increases in the SSA’s projected costs are attributable to fuel, depreciation, maintenance and health care, expected to increase by $656,000, or 9.7 percent, compared to the current estimate for 2012, despite increased contributions by employees for their medical coverage, according to a management report.

In other business Tuesday, the members authorized SSA general manager Wayne Lamson to award contracts for the complete renovation of the men’s bathroom in the Woods Hole terminal and similar terminal bathroom renovations of the men’s and the women’s restrooms in the Vineyard Haven terminal.

Construction is scheduled to be complete by January 30, 2013.