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Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

In order to address the impacts of COVID-19 and the subsequent drop in toll road users, a draft of a proposed budget for fiscal year 2020 results in a $76.8 million reduction.

At the April 29, 2020 Joint Operations & Finance Committee Meeting, the San Joaquin Hills (SJHTCA) and Foothill/Eastern (F/ETCA) Transportation Corridor Agencies Boards of Directors discussed the first draft of a proposed budget.

A TCA press release described the proposal as a “conservative approach” that focuses on core operating necessities and reduced expenses. The budget, if approved, would still advance priority projects for the completion of the Oso Parkway Bridge and the 241/91 Express Connector while deferring toll rate increases to maintain usage levels.

“The proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget reduces costs where possible while identifying efficiencies that ensure our Agencies meet their obligation to bondholders despite the temporary drop in transactions and revenue due to COVID-19,” said SJHTCA Chairwoman and Mission Viejo Mayor Pro Tem Trish Kelley.

The proposed Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget totals $289.5 million – $135 million for SJHTCA and $154.5 million for F/ETCA – to fund operations and debt service on bonds issued to build the 51-miles of toll roads in Orange County and reflects a 51% reduction in operating and capital expenses compared to the FY20 budget.

“While we are financially stable, the Agencies are being fiscally prudent in developing next year’s budget and staff will closely monitor progress as the economy recovers and our customers return to The Toll Roads,” said Samuel Johnson, Interim CEO of the Transportation Corridor Agencies.

The TCA’s finances continue to be a contentious issue in South Orange County.

According to a 2018 memorandum issued by the city of San Clemente, in conjunction with Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates, the TCA faced a nearly $7 billion debt. Assemblymember Bill Brough had stated in campaign literature this year that the TCA faces $11 billion in debt.

In a memo to the city of San Clemente, the TCA stated that the Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates memo contained inaccuracies and a misunderstanding of the TCA’s finances. In an interview with Dana Point Times, TCA staff clarified that the agency reportedly has a principal debt of $4.7 billion. And future interest and principal totals about $11 billion.

The TCA boards will vote on the proposed budget at the Thursday, June 11 meeting.

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