NYRA Review Still Not Approved by Board

Six months into the year, a state-ordered review of the New York Racing Association’s 2009 budget has still not received approval from a government oversight panel.

The budget review, required under a law giving NYRA another exclusive franchise to run its three Thoroughbred tracks, was slated for consideration April 28 at a meeting of the New York State Franchise Oversight Board. But the item was withdrawn at the last minute.

“We are still working with NYRA for some additional information that we requested. We thought we would have that this week and we did not, so we did not feel as a board that we had all of the adequate information in front of us that we felt we could fulfill our responsibility,” said Laura Anglin, the franchise board’s chairwoman who also serves as budget director to Gov. David Paterson.

Still being looked at are issues involving collective bargaining, compensation of employees, and contracts, Anglin said.

NYRA can continue operating without the board’s action because the franchise panel only reviews – and does not formally have to approve – its budget. It does have approval oversight of NYRA’s capital plans.

“I think the response has been terrific,’’ Anglin said of NYRA. “There’s still some additional information that we feel is necessary and that hopefully we will get in a timely manner.’’

The NYRA budget first came up, and was rejected, back in December by the franchise oversight panel.

The one item that did make it onto the panel’s agenda involving NYRA was, however, also punted. The board was asked by NYRA to approve a three-year contract with UHY, LLP, an outside auditing firm.

But Steve Newman, an oversight board member, raised concerns about a lack of offers for the contract. “It certainly could have been more comprehensive,” he said of the process. Approval was deferred pending more information from NYRA.

In the good news department for NYRA, train service on the Long Island Railroad did resume May 28 to Belmont Park for the rest of its meet, including the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Last year, 20,000 people rode the train to the Belmont Stakes. Budget problems had forced an end to the service, but a recent bailout package for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority helped restore the service.

“Having the LIRR service restored will be a boost for the Belmont meet at a time when enthusiasm is perking up across the nation for what I expect will be a very exciting Belmont Stakes,” said state Racing and Wagering Board chairman John Sabini.