Metro predicts another budget deficit
Metro is anticipating that it will have an $89 million deficit in its operating budget for fiscal year 2012. That's the agency's next budget year, which begins on July 1, 2011.
The news was first reported on the Greater Greater Washington blog by David Alpert and Michael Perkins.
The information is detailed in an item scheduled to be considered by Metro's finance and administration committee on Thursday. The general manager presents a budget proposal for the coming fiscal year to the board in January, and Metro staff is seeking guidance on the budgeting process.
The guidelines would include:
-- No bus or rail service reductions.
-- Restructuring to save $25 million in costs.
-- Holding revenue from rail and bus at the same levels as the current fiscal year.
-- Allowing for a 10 percent growth in MetroAccess ridership and expenses.
The budget also allows for a 3 percent raise Metro is required to give its front-line employees after an arbitrator's decision last year.
Metro faced a $190 million budget deficit for the current fiscal year, which led to the most expansive fare increase in the agency's history this summer. The fare hikes covered $109 million of the shortfall in the agency's $1.46 billion operating budget. For fiscal 2012 the budget would grow to $1.53 billion.
Metro officials have blamed declining ridership and falling revenues on the economy, with unemployed people not needing to use public transit to commute. Metro officials reported last month that bus ridership for the first two months of the fiscal year that began in July has fallen behind by 9 percent. The bus boarding charge went up 20 percent, from $1.25 to $1.50, for SmarTrip users and 26 percent, from $1.35 to $1.70, for cash customers. Rail ridership is slightly higher than a year ago, according to Metro data.
The American Public Transportation Association, an advocacy group, says transit agencies across the country have faced budget deficits due to the slow economy. APTA recently reported a slight uptick in ridership for the second quarter of 2010 of just .1 percent. APTA said it was the first increase in six quarters and has lobbied for more federal funding for transit.
Metro's operating budget deficit for 2012 already includes millions in losses caused by sharply reduced revenue and snow removal costs during last winter's snowstorms.
Board member Jim Graham told the Post's Ann Scott Tyson last month that Metro is running out of options.
"I shudder at what we are going to have to do, because our options are fewer and fewer and more and more unattractive and negative in impact," he said.
-- Staff reports
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