Greenwood said in an email, addressed to Council President Doug Shipman and the rest of the council members, that MARTA is an "audit-friendly agency" that regularly undergoes both regular and unscheduled financial reviews.
The audit would be conducted on the More MARTA program– the roughly $2.7 billion that's to be raised from a half-penny sales tax increase Atlanta voters approved in 2016 for system expansions and projects within the city.
Greenwood's message noted that while there is no mechanism for a More MARTA audit between the agency and the city in their operating agreement, it would "work with the Mayor to select a mutually agreed upon financial auditing firm, agreed upon procedures, as well as an equal burden of the costs between MARTA and the City of Atlanta." (See the full email at the bottom of this article.)
The planning of projects and how More MARTA money is being spent has become a contentious issue recently, with the transit agency presenting a revised project priority list for the money and some city leaders questioning its scope.
"Atlanta residents took a leap of faith when they agreed to impose a tax on themselves in exchange for more transit inside the city," Councilman Amir Farokhi said in a statement last week.
The revised list followed questions that arose when an outgoing MARTA executive claimed the program faced a $1 billion shortfall. The agency has explained that the budget shortfall alleged by that former executive was just one of many potential forecasts produced by a not-yet-completed financial model being built for the agency.
Greenwood told the council in January that the More MARTA Atlanta expansion package was initially produced with 70 candidate projects at a total cost of $12 billion– far more than that $2.7 billion in projected money from the 2016 sales tax increase.
Greenwood described that as a $9 billion "shortfall" right off the bat. Over time, MARTA and the mayor's office have worked together to whittle down the wishlist to about 17 projects costing $4 billion– still in the range of a $1 billion "shortfall."
The revised list prioritizes nine projects that can be built with the $2.7 billion.
MARTA's response Wednesday was due ahead of the agency's regular scheduled appearance before the city council, according to a council release last week.
See the full email:
Council President Shipman and Members of the Atlanta City Council:
MARTA acknowledges receipt of correspondence from the Municipal Clerk on March 27, 2023, transmitting Atlanta City Council Resolution 23-R-3320. MARTA agrees that periodic financial audits are a part of good fiscal management and will ensure the taxpayers that monies intended for the More MARTA program are spent responsibly.
MARTA is an audit-friendly agency that has regularly scheduled and unscheduled audits on our financial and business practices in accordance with agency, state, and federal requirements. There are no terms in our current Intergovernmental Agreement ("IGA"), between MARTA and the City of Atlanta, that define the parameters of an audit specific to the More MARTA program. As the IGA establishes the Mayor and MARTA as the parties to the Agreement, MARTA will work with the Mayor to select a mutually agreed upon financial auditing firm, agreed upon procedures, as well as an equal burden of the costs between MARTA and the City of Atlanta.
To the extent that 23-R-3220 requests responses to questions about decisions made by previous Administrations that are outside the scope of a financial audit and the current IGA, a formal response will be prepared by MARTA, namely on topics of enhanced bus service, Atlanta Streetcar operations and the development of the More MARTA capital program list.
Collie J. Greenwood