The following is a first-hand account from Tri-State executive director Kate Slevin:
Tri-State is a non-profit organization, but on many financial levels we are similar to any small business located in downstate New York. While we are exempt from a number of taxes and don’t make a profit like private companies, we still pay payroll taxes and end up paying other taxes – such as business improvement district taxes and real estate taxes – via one means or another.
A 0.33% payroll tax increase, recommended as part of the Ravitch plan to fund the MTA, is no exception. If approved by the State Legislature, we would pay it, like every other business in the downstate region.
Like any director of an organization or CEO of a company, I worry obsessively about our budget and increasing costs. So yesterday I calculated how much Tri-State Transportation Campaign would pay if the State Legislature approves the Ravitch plan. It came out to $1,200 a year. (One could do a quick calculation and argue that I need to give the staff raises — and be right — but that’s not the point.)
This is a small sum in the overall scheme of our budget, though not insignificant. (Readers who know nothing about small business costs may be surprised to learn that this annual sum is equivalent to paying health care for two employees for one month, but that’s not the point either.)
But weigh the $1,200 against what the staff would lose if fare hikes go up and the transit system fall into disrepair, and it’s a bargain.
Relatively consistent with broader demographic trends, 4 of our 8 staffers live in a household with access to a car, but none of us drive to work. Three of us bike to work often, the rest use transit.
If monthly MetroCards increase to $103, the staffers who use unlimited MetroCards would together pay an extra $1,056 a year. This does not include the cyclists who buy pay-per-ride cards, or those traveling from New Jersey. Adding their costs, you quickly get above the $1,200 annual cost the organization would pay with a higher payroll tax.
When it comes to service, the staff would lose, and productivity would lose as a result. For example, one staffer would face increased crowding on the 5 train, a train that already delays her frequently. All of us would face cuts that will make it harder to travel to meetings across the region. Our biking friends will see more traffic on the streets, placing them in more danger.
Even staffers who wouldn’t have more difficult commutes would feel the cuts in their personal lives, finding it harder to get to school, visit loved ones, run errands, and so on — all of which has some impact on their well-being and work performance.
The bottom line is that the money has to come from somewhere, and I vote it comes from my organization, not my employees.
Image: TSTC office.