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Housing market helping CDTA balance its budget

Housing market helping CDTA balance its budget

An increase in mortgage recording tax revenue will help the Capital District Transportation Authorit

An increase in mortgage recording tax revenue will help the Capital District Transportation Authority balance its 2013-14 budget, CDTA officials said Wednesday.

The CDTA board, meeting in Rensselaer, approved a tentative spending plan that totals $75.4 million, up about $1 million from the current budget.

A year ago, CDTA officials were wrestling with ways to close a projected $10 million deficit, they believe now that the authority will have a balanced budget for 2013-14. Growth in the mortgage recording tax is one of the main reasons.

From April 1 through Nov. 30, the mortgage tax brought in $8.2 million, up 10 percent from a year ago, with the trend in recent months being even higher. Through Nov. 30, Albany County had contributed $3.2 million; Saratoga County, $2.8 million; and Rensselaer and Schenectady counties between $1 million and $1.1 million each.

“We’re about $2.5 million over our projections, and that’s making a significant difference this year,” said Michael Collins, CDTA’s vice president for administration.

Authority officials attribute the increase to an improved real estate market — especially in Saratoga County — and people refinancing older mortgages because interest rates are at historic lows.

“We should finish the year with $11 million in [mortgage tax] revenue, allowing us to move into next year with a strong financial position,” CDTA Executive Director Carm Basile reported to the board.

By law, the authority receives a share of all mortgage recording tax collected in Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties, getting $2.50 for every $1,000 of mortgage value recorded in the counties. Saratoga and Albany counties have seen the most growth this year, according to a spreadsheet provided by CDTA.

The authority has also seen bus ridership rise 6 percent so far this fiscal year, which began April 1, so revenue from customer fares is up, as well.

The authority is on track to carry more than 15 million riders during this budget year, perhaps achieving its highest ridership ever.

“Frankly, the demand in some places is exceeding our capacity,” Basile said.

Thanks to the unanticipated mortgage tax improvement, service expansions next year can at least be discussed, he said.

“The mortgage tax receipts are making everyone happy and giving us room to move,” Basile said. “Now, the discussion is about where to move.”

The BusPlus rapid transit service on Central Avenue has been so successful since its launch in April 2011 that planning is now under way to establish similar limited-stop service between Cohoes-Troy and downtown Albany and between downtown Albany and the University at Albany-Crossgates Mall area. Those new services, however, are still several years away.

CDTA’s tentative 2013-14 budget doesn’t propose increasing customer fares, but does propose a hike in daily parking fees at the Rensselaer Rail Station. The proposed rate increases would be $1 or $2 per day and generate about $350,000 annually, according to a CDTA memo.

The authority will also consider making permanent a $5 per vehicle parking fee at the Saratoga Springs Rail Station. A $5 parking fee was imposed last month for special events like The Polar Express train run.

That fee has already generated $20,000 in revenue, Basile said.

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