LANTA's CFO, Melissa Gemelli, took a beating at yesterday's County Council budget hearing. The LV's public transit system is asking Northampton County to fund $407,000 of its $24 million budget next year. In fact the County money is leveraged to get more money out of the state and federal governments. But questions about the bus company's budget are bothering Council President John Cusick and member Ron Angle.
Cusick was concerned that the budget shows that 85-95% of the wages paid to LANTA employees are in the form of fringe benefits. When Gemelli claimed the real figure is closer to 50%, Angle disputed her assertion.
Cusick was also troubled that nearly $750,000 has been set aside for undefined service extensions. Gemelli conceded she does not know where these extensions of service will be located or their actual cost, which led Cusick to deride the amount as a "placeholder." He indicated that, at least at this juncture, he opposes "appropriating a pot for someone to dive into and get out as much as they can."
Angle was bothered that $12 million is set aside to pay the wages of approximately 125 bus drivers. That is the equivalent of roughly $100,000 per year for each bus driver.
"We're going to give a 10% tax increase so you can pay a regular operator just shy of $100,000 per year?" he asked. "How do we tell the guy who pays the tax bill that we're supporting this when he has no fringe benefits? You people in the public sector have to understand how people in the private sector are living."
"Are you unionized?"
"There you go."
According to Salary.com, the national average compensation to a bus driver, including salary and fringes, is $35,636.