President Skorton on increasing Cornell's annual payment to TCAT

The following letter from Cornell President David Skorton to Seph Murtagh, TCAT board secretary and treasurer, was released today.

Dear Mr. Murtagh:

After careful consideration, I offer the following response to Resolution 2014-09 adopted by the TCAT Board of Directors on Aug. 28, 2014.

Cornell's ultimate goal is to support a more economically sustainable TCAT operation. To achieve that, I believe we need to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the TCAT Board of Directors that spells out the current and future Cornell payments for the rides it purchases for students, faculty and staff. I do not believe, however, that long-term sustainability of the system will be achieved solely through an increased Cornell payment. It will require a comprehensive review by TCAT of its own business model and a full assessment of all other potential sources of funding (e.g., revenues generated by the County's mortgage recording tax going towards operational expenses).

In the immediate term, our internal funding challenges have not changed since we began discussing last spring an increase in Cornell's payment to TCAT for the rides it purchases. That said, we fully recognize how vital TCAT's service is to the health of our campus and the greater community, and Cornell will increase its annual payment every year over the next three years so that it is paying $500,000 more in the third year. Cornell will increase its annual payment by $250,000 in FY16, by an additional $125,000 (for a total increase of $375,000) in FY17, and by an additional $125,000 (for a total increase of $500,000) in FY18. Annual payments beyond FY18 will be established in accordance with the MOU we intend to develop with TCAT. We will not be able to transfer additional funds to TCAT until July 2015, the beginning of Cornell's FY16. Since the TCAT fiscal year begins in January 2015, our increased payment can be counted on in TCAT's planning for next year.

I have asked Cornell's Transportation Services to create a Task Force with broad University representation, which will include students, to advise our administration on proposed actions to identify the additional annual revenue for our increased TCAT fare payments. The Task Force's charge will be to address the long-term funding issues and look for solutions to create a sustainable funding model considering both the level of the University's payment and the cost to student riders.

I appreciate our ongoing relationship with the City and the County in paying for this vital transportation resource and look forward to continuing to work with the TCAT board on these critical financial considerations over the coming months.


David J. Skorton