SSA projects expenses, but not rates, to rise in 2010
Steamship Authority (SSA) management presented a 2010 proposed $75,691,957 operating budget to boatline members at the authority's monthly meeting Tuesday on Nantucket. The proposed spending plan forecasts operating expenses that will increase by $1,025,000, and that revenue will drop.
Nevertheless, the SSA budget does not propose rate increases to cover next year's cost of service. Savings in projected fuel costs in 2009 and federal grant revenue is expected to help offset costs.
The increase in operating expenses is attributed to hikes in employee wages ($660,000), pension ($179,000) and health and welfare costs ($436,000), and an increase in payroll taxes ($118,000).
Freight, passenger, and terminal revenue is expected to decrease by approximately $1.6 million, according to a written summary of the meeting provided by management.
Maintenance costs are expected to drop by $567,000 next year, and fuel oil expenses are projected to remain about the same. The $7.3 million the boatline expects to spend for fuel represents approximately 10 percent of the operating budget and assumes the delivered price of fuel remains between $2.51 and $2.64 per gallon.
The boatline expects to receive more than $6.4 million in grant revenue from federal stimulus funds and the ferry boat discretionary fund.
The board is expected to vote on the 2010 operating budget when it meets in October.
In other business, the board voted to allow the New England Fast Ferry (NEFF) to suspend ferry service between New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard from December 1 to March 31, 2010 on the condition that the SSA continue to receive the same amount of license fee revenue as it would were the service year-round.
The SSA vote is only for this winter season and the company would be obligated to provide year-round service next year under the terms of its licensing agreement, absent another SSA vote.
Last month, the Steamship members deferred action on NEFF's request at the request of New Bedford officials who wanted to explore all options before ending the service. One possibility that remains under discussion is the addition of a stop in Woods Hole that would attract more commuters.
The members also approved the 2010 summer and fall operating schedules and agreed to allow the Martha's Vineyard and Mashpee reservation bureaus to close at 4:30 pm rather than 5 pm so that there will be a full complement of clerks available to answer phones when the bureaus open at 8 am each day.