The Metro St. Louis' board of commissioners approved a $232.4 million operating budget for Fiscal Year 2011, which includes funds to restore transit services cut in 2009. The budget also includes freezes on salaries and hiring, and reductions to expenditures across the board.
Metro President and CEO Robert J. Baer told the Board that Metro remains under tight spending and budget restrictions despite passage of a half-cent sales tax by voters in St. Louis County in April. Those funds will not begin to be collected until July 1 and will not begin to arrive at Metro until late September. He noted the $80 million a year projected to result from the new sales tax already is committed to critical financial needs and added that, contrary to popular belief since passage of the tax, "We're not rolling in dough."
Baer said tight fiscal management and spending controls had kept the FY 2011 budget increase at less than the inflation rate of 3 percent a year since FY 2008, and that Metro is finishing FY 2010 by spending $4 million less than budgeted.
The board also approved a recommendation from management to defer fare increases that had been scheduled for July 1, 2010 until sometime in 2011. Baer said it was not appropriate to raise fares before service was restored to pre-2009 levels. He also said fares are the only source of revenue keeping pace with inflation and already are in line with those charged by other transit systems.
In addition to restoring services eliminated for financial reasons in 2009, Baer said the new sales tax revenue is committed to replacing a $5 million decline in sales tax revenue and replacing the one-time appropriation of $12 million from the state of Missouri in FY 2010. The revenue also will replace millions of dollars in federal capital funds spent on operations in FY 2010, freeing those federal funds to be used partly to acquire more buses for service restoration.
The new budget also reflects $6 million in higher costs for fuel, medical costs and utilities, and $4.8 million more to provide additional services under contract with the St. Clair County Transit District in Illinois.
Baer said restoring service to pre-2009 levels would mean Metro would again serve 95 percent of households in the region and reach 97 percent of employment sites. Restoration also will mean a modest increase in passenger revenue for FY 2011.