MORE: New Metro estimates are in, and they aren’t pretty
Officials presented those numbers to the Board of Supervisors' finance committee Tuesday night -- and it wasn't pretty.
Loudoun supervisors and county administration have characterized the figures -- which start off at $50.8 million in fiscal 2020 for Loudoun’s annual operating and capital costs -- as “worst case scenario” numbers that are not final projections.
The latest estimates highlight a $27.9 million increase in annual payments than what was presented to the board last year.
Still, supervisors say they won't know the true cost of Metro until the system is physically in the county, which is slated for 2020.
“I think [the projections] will change quite a bit,” Supervisor Matt Letourneau (R-Dulles), who also serves as the vice chairman representing Virginia on the Metropolitan Washington Council Of Government’s board of directors, told the Times-Mirror.
The new projections are based off of a Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments’ report in October and numbers WMATA provided to the county back in 2012 when Loudoun approved bringing Metro into the county.
County staff’s presentation came after several supervisors, WMATA and county staff said they couldn't provide a ballpark on how much Loudoun would pay in annual operating and capital costs, even though some said they had been briefed on the figures and knew they were high.
According to the latest MWCOG projections, starting in fiscal 2019 the county will pay $12 million in annual operating and capital costs.
The next year, the number jumps to $50.8 million. It then drops a couple million in fiscal 2021, then increases to $51.6 million in 2022; $55.3 million in 2023; and $58.4 million in 2024
Overall, from 2020 to 2025, the annual costs increase by 62 percent to $82.1 million in 2025.
Letourneau thinks the county’s latest projections will decrease. He noted that the current MWCOG numbers include the Metro bus service, which Loudoun has opted out of.
“This is an absolute worst-case scenario, and even in this worst case scenario, it includes a component of Metro that we are not paying for,” Letourneau said.
County administration noted that both the 2012 WMATA projections and the latest MWCOG projections did not include Metro’s proposed $3.1 billion 2018 budget, which carries with it a nearly $300 million operating shortfall.
The county also released Loudoun’s current funding plan for Metro, which holds a 147 percent increase in deficit based on projections from 2020 to 2026.
According to the funding plan, starting in fiscal 2020, the county could face a $28.3 million deficit; an $8 million deficit in 2021; a $12.4 million deficit in 2022; a $22.2 million deficit in 2023; a $24.4 million deficit in 2024; a $47.2 million deficit in 2025; and a $69.9 million deficit in 2026.
The latest funding plan includes gas tax revenue, 30 percent of Northern Virginia Transportation Authority funds toward capital contributions, General Obligation bond financing toward capital contributions and revenues from the Metrorail tax district and Metro parking garages.
The deficit did not account for other streams of revenue or dedicated funding sources -- something supervisors have pressed for from Congress and the General Assembly.
Earlier this month, Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) said that if the county pulled out of Metro it would lose out on as much as $1 billion. On Tuesday, Blue Ridge Supervisor Tony Buffington (R) asked what would need to happen for Loudoun to opt out.
Buffington, whose district includes constituents in Brambleton who will likely use the Silver Line, as well as constituents out west who are strongly opposed to Metro, said he has received both praise and complaints about Metro. He wanted to get a better picture on what would need to happen in order to exit the compact.
“We talk a lot about what it will cost … when it comes, but we haven’t talked about the process for opting out and what it would take it we wanted to go down that road and what it’s cost would be,” Buffington said.
County staff outlined a tricky process.
In order to get out of Metro, Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia -- members of the WMATA Compact -- would need to pass an amendment to the compact. Congress would also need to sign off.
Even if Loudoun could get itself out of the compact, County Administrator Tim Hemstreet said, the county would still be on the hook for the federal TIFIA loan it has taken out to pay for the Silver Line’s construction and the three parking garages.
Therefore, Loudoun would still need to finish its portion of construction on Metro and pay back the debt on the TIFIA loan. To date the county has used $83 million of the loan.
“The board could always default on the loan. The challenge with that is we don’t want to have [poor] credit ratings ... so that creates a pretty significant financial challenge for the county,” Hemstreet said. “I certainly wouldn’t recommend that you default on that loan.”
Letourneau asked county staff to continue to update the projections and try to take the bus numbers out.
County staff will present the latest Metro projections to the board’s Transportation and Land Use Committee on Friday.
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