Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has backed the City Council’s request for an audit of More MARTA, the transit expansion program funded primarily by a half-cent sales tax approved by voters in 2016. (File)

Mayor Andre Dickens has backed the Atlanta City Council’s request for an audit of the More MARTA expansion program after MARTA officials formally agreed to open their books.

When the audit will take place and who will be conducting it, though, is unknown at this time.

The mayor said he supported the City Council’s legislation seeking financial transparency of the more than $2.7 billion More MARTA program in a March 31 letter to MARTA Board Chair Thomas Worthy and CEO Collie Greenwood.

More MARTA is funded mostly by half-cent sales tax approved by Atlanta voters in 2016. MARTA’s recent section to prioritize nine of the original 17 More MARTA projects due to an apparent budget shortfall coupled with rising costs and inflation distressed council members as well as numerous residents wanting to know how their transit expansion tax dollars are being spent.

“I believe that the elected leaders of the city of Atlanta have a role in ensuring good fiscal stewardship and project delivery, especially for a program that is primarily funded by Atlanta taxpayers,” Mayor Dickens said in his letter.

“It is now clear that MARTA will not be able to deliver each project presented within the expected schedule when voters were asked to approve the More MARTA sales tax in November 2016,” Dickens said. “The city of Atlanta and the constituents we serve deserve a full and transparent accounting of the dollars raised and spent under this program from its inception.”

MARTA initially was hostile to the City Council’s audit request,  calling it “disappointing and disingenuous” and accused the council of “playing politics.” MARTA also said the audit would only slow down expansion projects.

In a March 29 letter to the mayor and council, Greenwood said MARTA is an “audit-friendly agency” and “agrees that periodic financial audits are a part of good fiscal management and will ensure the taxpayers that monies for the More MARTA program are spent responsibly.”

The City Council wanted the city’s finance department to conduct the audit and the city to pay for its cost. Greenwood said the More MARTA intergovernmental agreement is between the agency and MARTA, not the council. Because of this arrangement, MARTA and the mayor’s office will work together to select an auditing firm and will split the final bill.

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Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.