Metro Board to Consider Service Cut Plan
[9:30 a.m. Update: Peter Benjamin, chairman of the Metro board's finance committee, just announced that the board members are not prepared to consider ways to balance the budget today.]
The board is scheduled to meet at 11 o'clock this morning to consider whether to send a plan for service cuts out for public hearings, a necessary step before a board vote to approve a balanced budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.
Board members have spent the past week talking with leaders of their jurisdictions, the jurisdictions across the region that help finance Metro, to decide what service cuts they'd be willing to live with and whether they can come up with any additional revenue to offset them.
We've already heard the worst of the service cut proposals. They involve reductions in bus service that would eliminate some routes and widen the gap between arrival times. Metrorail would widen the gap between train arrival times at certain hours. Some station entrances would be closed during off hours.
For the past two weeks, it's been a question of whether the board and the transit authority staff can come up with more revenue to offset the proposed cuts. The board could decide to take a portion of the federal stimulus money it's set to receive and use that to help plug the budget gap. But that's not extra money. It would mean Metro couldn't use it for something else and would have to make up another funding gap down the road.
Then there are these alternatives: Create more revenue from riders, through some additional charge, possibly a weekend parking fee, or through private enterprise, such as advertising fees. Or guess that revenues will turn out to be higher. For example, the board asked the staff to do that with its estimate on how much money would be raised following the Jan. 4 elimination of paper transfers and the start of a transfer system that requires use of SmarTrip cards. That's a risky step, since the staff has no real trend line on revenue over that short time.
Check back on the blog this morning for updates on the board's actions.
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