Heat advisory in effect Saturday until 8 p.m.

Local cities have to pay after Hampton Roads Transit goes over budget

NORFOLK, Va. - Six local cities have to pay the deficit after Hampton Roads Transit went $5.3 million over budget, according to a letter from the Virginia Beach city manager to city council members.

HRT recently completed its financial records for the 2015-2016 fiscal year and reported the shortfall, the letter states.

-Virginia Beach will have to pay $1,572,465

-Norfolk owes $1,973,481.

-Chesapeake owes $124,023.

-Hampton owes $640,923.

-Newport News owes $1,004,627.

-Portsmouth owes $38,652.

HRT says the budget deficit was caused by workers getting more overtime due to high turnover, higher maintenance costs, lower than projected ridership, and unforeseen expenses, like inclement weather.

The news caught Norfolk city council members by surprise. They addressed it during their work session on Tuesday night. "If I was running an organization and this happened, there would be heads rolling," Councilman Tommy Smigiel said. "There has to be accountability with this."

Brandon Singleton, the chief financial officer for HRT, said the organization doesn't have a reserve fund, which makes things tougher. The budget must balance out each year. "It's frustrating to Hampton Roads Transit as well," Singleton said in an interview on Wednesday. "It's not something we take lightly. We try to budget soundly."

HRT is funded through a combination of federal, state, and local funds, as well as through fares, Singleton said. When one of those doesn't live up to their projections, a deficit can be created, he added. HRT is planning to try and increase ridership in order to prevent this from happening again.

Smigiel and members of Norfolk's city council said they want clear answers on what happened. "To hear the CFO of the organization say, 'There's no excuses for this.' Yeah, there's no excuses you should be fired and [CEO William] Harrell's butt should be on the line for this as well," Smigiel said.

Singleton said he has no plans to resign, and to his knowledge, no has been fired.