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Senate Restaurants Post $1.02M Deficit

Senate Restaurants nearly doubled their deficit last year, posting more than $1 million in losses in fiscal 2006, according to a report released Tuesday by the Government Accountability Office.

And the audit of the Senate Restaurants Revolving Fund, conducted by the public accounting firm Clifton Gunderson LLP, also found that Senators themselves continue to maintain overdue accounts that contribute to the deficit.

According to the report, losses from operations totaled $1.02 million in 2006, up from $680,965 in fiscal 2005, with the restaurants continuing to remain dependent on funding from the Architect of the Capitol and Senate, which appropriated $850,000 to the group both years, the report states.

“If losses from operations continue, the Fund will continue to require financial support to maintain operations,” the report reads.

The AOC provided $163,020 in fiscal 2006 and $161,183 in fiscal 2005 for equipment and professional fees. Plus, the Architect and Government Printing Office also assisted Senate Restaurants in services on such matters as space and utilities, according to the report.

Senate Restaurants posted about $10 million in sales both years, but after factoring the costs related to those operations, income from sales totaled $6.3 million in 2006 and $6.5 million in 2005.

Personnel and benefits cost $6.8 million in 2006 and $6.7 million in 2005, with total operating expenses amounting to about $7.3 million both years.

The restaurants showed greater losses from food services operating income in 2006.

In “regular food services,” which includes catering, the Capitol dining rooms and the North Servery Cafeteria, losses from operating income amounted to $1.3 million in 2006, up from $1 million in 2005.

In Sundry Shop operations, which includes the Southside Deli, operating income totaled $19,466 in 2006 and $10,924 in 2005.

The report also found that more patrons with customer accounts, including Senators, former Senators and select Senate officials, are becoming delinquent on their payments.

In 2006, when the restaurants billed $68,357 to patrons, more than 90 percent of those accounts, totaling $61,670, were listed as 0-30 days overdue.

As for the remaining accounts, 4.6 percent, worth $3,137, were listed as 31-60 days overdue, while $3,116 (4.6 percent) were listed as 61-90 days overdue.

In 2005, when the restaurants billed $53,757 to customers, 96 percent of accounts, worth $51,915, were 0-30 days overdue. Only .2 percent ($106) were 31-60 days overdue and 2.4 percent ($1,296) were 61-90 days overdue.

The report did state that restaurant management “actively pursues collection of all past due amounts.”

And the amount billed in both years shows a significant decrease from past years, however. The restaurants billed $91,314 to patrons in fiscal 2004 and $189,545 in fiscal 2003.

Last year’s overall loss still is slightly less than those posted in fiscal 2004, when Senate restaurants reported a $1.1 million loss.

But it’s much higher than in the early part of the decade. Senate Restaurants reported a $388,000 deficit in fiscal 2000 and $351,000 in fiscal 2001, before rising to $1.2 million in fiscal 2002 and $678,000 in fiscal 2003.

Calls to a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol’s office, which helps oversee the restaurants, were not returned by press time.

A spokeswoman for Senate Rules and Administration Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) also did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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