The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is relying on uncertain savings projections in its effort to close a potential $1-billion budget gap for next year and needs to find ways other than its reliance on commuters to raise money, state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a report released Monday.

Though he cautiously praised the agency for "aggressively" moving to stem its financial hemorrhaging, the comptroller warned that the authority should find alternative cost-cutting measures in case those it intends to implement in 2011 don't work.

"Repeated fare hikes and service cuts can't change a culture of complacency," DiNapoli said in a statement. He said officials should concentrate on "eliminating waste and inefficiencies."

Riders facing fare hikes and service cuts will shoulder 57 percent of the burden as the MTA moves to close the gap, he said.

The agency, which has come under fire for excessive overtime spending, announced Monday that it expects to cut overtime expenses by $54 million this year, an 11 percent reduction.

Responding to the comptroller's report, MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin pointed to those overtime reductions, including $13 million at the LIRR and $2 million at Long Island Bus.

"We are effectively implementing the largest cost-cutting initiative in the history of the MTA," Soffin said in an e-mail. "There are always external threats to our budget, but there should be no question on our commitment to meet our internal cost reduction targets."

DiNapoli, who criticized the extent to which the MTA is relying on one-time savings to close this year's budget gap, is conducting a forensic audit of the MTA's $600-million overtime budget.

MTA vice chairman Andrew M. Saul, during a finance committee meeting Monday, spoke of the "terrible" fare hikes that passengers now face: 15 percent over the next three years, on the heels of a 10 percent increase in 2009.

"Can you imagine if the board and the chairman . . . had not done the work they've done?" Saul said. "We'd be looking at a fare increase of 25 or 30 percent. We are doing everything possible."

In July the MTA outlined a gap-closing plan that includes reducing administrative costs and overtime, improving procurement and boosting worker productivity.

But weak tax and fee revenues could set the agency back even further.

While the new payroll mobility tax has yielded $36 million more than expected so far this year, other fees implemented by the same state legislation have yielded $56 million less than anticipated, according to figures released Monday by the MTA. MTA officials attributed part of that shortfall to lower-than-expected fee receipts at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Meanwhile, real estate tax revenues remain on par with last year's dismal numbers, MTA officials said.

"I would have felt by now we would have seen an improvement," Saul said in the finance committee meeting, referring to the real estate tax revenues. "It's unbelievable; it's still completely flat from last year, which was disastrous. This thing has not bounced at all."

Latest videos

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months