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Dennis M. Clough, President, and Members, Board of Trustees Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority and Residents of Cuyahoga County, Ohio:

It is a pleasure to submit to you the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (“GCRTA” or “Authority”) for the year ended December 31, 2018. This is the thirty-first such report issued by GCRTA. In the first year, there was no GFOA Certification. It has become the standard format used in presenting the results of the Authority's operations, financial position, cash flows and related statistical information.

Management assumes full responsibility for the completeness and reliability of the information contained in this report, based upon a comprehensive framework of internal control that has been established for this purpose. Because the cost of internal control should not exceed anticipated benefits, the objective is to provide reasonable, rather than absolute, assurance that the financial statements are free of any material misstatements.

Keith Faber, Auditor of State of Ohio, has issued an unmodified opinion on the Authority’s financial statements for the year ended December 31, 2018. The Independent Auditor’s Report is located at the front of the financial section of this report.

GCRTA also participates in the federal single audit program, which consists of a single audit of all federally funded programs administered by the Authority. As a requirement for continued funding eligibility, participation in the single audit program is mandatory for most local governments, including GCRTA.

Management’s discussion and analysis (MD&A) immediately follows the independent auditor’s report and provides a narrative introduction, overview, and analysis of the basic financial statements. MD&A complements this letter of transmittal and should be read in conjunction with it.

GCRTA takes great pride in the fact that each of the previously issued Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports earned the recognition of the Government Finance Officers Association (“GFOA”) in the form of its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting. This award evidences the fact that the previous CAFRs complied with stringent GFOA standards for professional financial reporting. GCRTA was the first public transit agency in Ohio to earn this important recognition and has consistently done so since 1988.

The GCRTA also submits its annual operating and capital budgets to the GFOA and has been doing so since 1990. Each of these budget documents has won the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award, having satisfied the most stringent program criteria and proven its value as (1) a policy document, (2) an operations guide, (3) a financial plan, and (4) a communication device.

PROFILE OF GOVERNMENT AND REPORTING ENTITY

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority is an independent political subdivision of the State of Ohio. It was created in December 1974 by ordinance of the City of Cleveland, Ohio, and by resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Operations at GCRTA began in September 1975. The Authority provides virtually all mass transportation within the County. It is a multimodal system delivering bus, paratransit, heavy rail, light rail and bus rapid transit services.

A ten-member Board of Trustees (Board) establishes policy and sets direction for the management of the GCRTA. Four of the members are appointed by the Mayor of Cleveland with the consent of City Council; three members, one of whom must reside in the City of Cleveland, are appointed by the County Executive; the remaining three members are elected by suburban mayors, city managers, and township trustees. Board members serve overlapping three-year terms. Under the provisions of General Accounting Standards Board (“GASB”) Statement No. 61, the Authority is considered to be a jointly governed organization.

Responsibility for the line administration rests with the Interim CEO, General Manager/Secretary-Treasurer. He supervises five Deputy General Managers who head the Operations, Legal Affairs, Finance & Administration, Engineering & Project Management and the Human Resources divisions. Additionally, Information Technology and the Marketing and Communications department function outside of the divisional configuration and report directly to the Interim General Manager. The Internal Audit Department reports to the Board of Trustees and maintains a close working relationship with the Interim General Manager. An organizational chart, which depicts these relationships, follows later in this introductory section.

The Authority had 2,138 employees as of December 31, 2018. The system delivered 12.8 million revenue miles of bus service and 3.3 million revenue miles on its heavy and light rail systems. The active service fleet was composed of 403 motor bus coaches, 40 heavy rail cars, 34 light rail cars, and 142 Paratransit vehicles and 7 van pool vehicles.

The annual cash-basis operating budget is proposed by management, at the division and department levels, and adopted by the Board of Trustees after public discussion. The budget for each division and department is represented by appropriation. The Board must approve any increase in the total Authority appropriations. The General Manager must approve any inter-divisional budget transfers. The appropriate Deputy General Manager may modify appropriations to applicable departments within a division and to accounts within a department.

Budgetary control is maintained at the department level. It is the responsibility of each department to administer its operations in such a manner as to ensure that the use of funds is  consistent with the goals and programs authorized by the Board of Trustees. The Authority also maintains an encumbrance accounting system for budgetary control. Unencumbered appropriations lapse at year-end. Encumbered appropriation balances are carried forward to the succeeding year and need not be reauthorized.

ECONOMIC CONDITION AND OUTLOOK

The Authority's service area is contiguous with the boundaries of Cuyahoga County, Ohio. The County includes the City of Cleveland, two townships, and fifty-six other jurisdictions. This is the largest metropolitan area in Ohio and one of the largest counties in the United States. The population of this area is approximately 1.24 million people.

Historically, the foundation for Greater Cleveland's economic vitality had been heavy industry with the largest employment sector being manufacturing. The largest employment areas in 2018 were in the following industries:

  • Healthcare/Education
  • Trade/Transportation/Utilities
  • Professional/Business services
  • Government
  • Insurance

Real property, consisting of agricultural, commercial, industrial, and residential real property is reappraised every six years. The current assessed value is estimated to be $27.9 billion. This process is the foundation for property taxation, and it sets the debt limitation for the Authority.

CURRENT YEAR REVIEW

In 2018, the Authority continued its pursuit to provide Greater Clevelanders with unparalleled connectivity, along with high quality service design and delivery.

This included:

  • Continuing the purchase of new buses that emit fewer greenhouse gases and less nitrous oxide pollution than the current diesel buses, while contributing to the Authority’s sustainability commitment to the community-at-large.
  • Gaining approval from the FTA for the Triskett Garage CNG Improvement project.
  • Placing over 30 new Paratransit vehicles into service.
  • Completing several rail and station improvement projects.

During 2018, RTA:

  • Celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the HealthLine. The region’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).
  • Celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Red Line. The first direct public transit rail service between a city’s Downtown district and an international airport.
  • Received the APTA Gold Award for Bus Safety and Security.
  • Received Group Award for Safety from Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
  • Named “Government Fleet of the Year” by Fleet Owner Magazine.

2018 was a year of transition for the Authority. In September 2018, the Board of Trustees named Floun’say R. Caver, Ph.D. the Interim CEO/General Manager. Shortly after that, several strategic planning studies were started or advanced. These studies (Pillar Studies) include an economic impact study, a fare study, a rail car study, an efficiency study and a system redesign study. These studies should be completed in 2019.

PRESENT AND FUTURE PLANS

In addition to the Pillar Studies now underway, the Authority has continued to implement its Long-Range Plan. This Long-Range Plan serves as a blueprint for building tomorrow’s public transit by addressing shifts in our area’s population and employment centers, as well as changing travel patterns. This plan includes:

Transit Centers - Transit centers are strategically located where bus routes intersect and service is timed to provide easy transferring. Larger centers include indoor waiting areas and concessions. GCRTA has existing Transit Centers at Fairview Park, Maple Heights, Parma Mall and the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Transit Center in downtown Cleveland.

Park-N-Ride Lots - Parking lots are strategically located at freeway or other major intersections. Commuters leave their cars and ride express service to and from their destinations.

Paratransit Facility – The Paratransit Facility, including a propane fueling station, houses all Paratransit functions including scheduling, dispatching and both revenue and non-revenue repairs.

CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PLAN

The development of the 2018 budget included preparation of a five-year Capital Improvement Plan (“CIP”). This document is an outline for rebuilding and expanding services by the Authority through the end of 2022. Totaling $432.43 million, the CIP constitutes a significant public works effort aimed at remaking the transit network and positioning the Authority, not just for the short-term, but also for the long-term future. Significant capital improvements planned for the five-year period include:

Rail Projects - $106.24 million

This commitment of funds includes the replacement of several substations, stations and track rehabilitation, bridges, train control systems, rail vehicles overhaul, signage and rail expansion. Major significant projects include the rehabilitation of rail stations for $2.95 million, $22 million for various track rehabilitation projects, and $10.15 million for substation, electrical, and train signal improvements throughout they system.

Bridge Rehabilitation and Other Facility Improvements - $33.53 million

Funding has been provided for the rehabilitation of track bridges and includes State of Good Repair projects and other facility improvements totaling $33.53 million.

Bus Purchases, Paratransit Vehicles and Circulator Bus- $123.94 million

The useful life of a standard bus, as defined by the Federal Transit Administration (“FTA”), is twelve years, or five hundred thousand miles. The Authority is aggressively reducing its fleet's average age by replacing its oldest vehicles.

Transit Centers and Shelters and Other - $1.50 million

The Authority will make an investment in the construction of Transit Centers over the next five years of $1.50 million. These centers will be designed to provide our riders with convenient connections between local, regional and downtown transit lines. Comfortable waiting areas and time-coordinated service will make it easier for riders to transfer between routes.

Equipment and Other- $39.30 million

This project calls for the on-going upgrades to the Management Information System throughout the Authority including Data Center, internet development and network improvements.

Local Capital Projects - $27.92 million

Classified as Routine Capital Projects ($8.28 million) and Asset Maintenance projects ($9.17 million), these initiatives are funded entirely from local resources. Routine Capital Projects are typically equipment requested by various departments and not funded through grants. Asset Maintenance funds are used to maintain, rehabilitate, replace, or construct assets of a smaller scope or cost than those typically supported with grants. These projects are authorized within the Authority’s Capital Fund and are supported with annual allocations of sales tax receipts.

Operating Expenses and Other Expenses - $100.00 million

Certain operating costs are budgeted as capital items as designated by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) or the State government to be incurred over the next several years and are reimbursable by the Federal and State governments totaling $100 million. These costs are recorded as operating costs in the enclosed financial statements.

OTHER INFORMATION

Certificate of Achievement for Financial Reporting

It is management's intention to submit this and future CAFRs to the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada for review under its Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Program. We believe the current report conforms to the program requirements, and we expect that participation will result in improvements to our reports in coming years.

Acknowledgements

The GCRTA expresses thanks to the staff of the Accounting Department for their work in preparing this report. Supervisor of General Accounting, Marsha Laney Pettus, David Pfeiffer, Mamadou Ndour, Michael So, David Reynolds, Zardik Haruthunian, Corey Kadleck, and Cora Vlacovsky assisted with this report. In addition, appreciation goes out to the Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer for providing supporting demographics and other statistics.

Floun'say R. Caver, Ph.D.
Interim Chief Executive Officer
General Manager/
Secretary-Treasurer

Rajan D. Gautam, CPA
Deputy General Manager
Finance & Administration

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