March 14, 2012

TriMet revises proposal to close budget shortfall

After five weeks of public comment and outreach, TriMet released a refined proposal to close the $12 million to $17 million shortfall in its upcoming Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) budget that begins July 1, 2012. The full proposal is available at trimet.org/choices.

TriMet has targeted $12 million in cuts and changes to take effect in September 2012. The changes have been scaled back for two key reasons. The agency is required by state law to adopt a balanced budget in June, but the unsettled labor contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 (ATU) will not be resolved until after the budget begins. TriMet is proposing $12 million in cuts and changes now, and depending on the outcome of the arbitration of the contract, may need to cut an additional $5 million during the FY13 budget.

With the slow economic recovery, TriMet expects to receive about $3 million less in payroll tax revenues than previously anticipated. Additionally, TriMet estimates a $4 million cut in federal formula funds that are used for preventive maintenance; the agency receives $40 million to $45 million annually.

The unresolved union contract adds $5 million to $10 million to the FY13 budget shortfall. The contract expired in 2009 and both parties are heading to interest arbitration scheduled for May 2012. A recent Employee Relations Board decision removed certain cost-saving proposals from TriMet's final offer.

The refined budget proposal includes:

•    Eliminating fare zones/move to flat fare system, providing $6 million in additional revenue.

•    Eliminating the Free Rail Zone, providing $2.7 million in additional revenue. This change would eliminate free rides on MAX in Downtown Portland and the Lloyd District.

•    Selling ads on the TriMet website, bringing in $300,000 in additional revenue.

•    Enacting internal efficiencies, providing $1.2 million in savings. The original proposal from February called for $500,000 in savings. By identifying these internal efficiencies and program cuts it will minimize service cuts and impact to riders. During this recession, TriMet has already cut 200 positions, frozen salaries for non-union employees now in its fourth year and required greater cost sharing for health care benefits.

•    Service cuts, providing $1.1 million in savings. The original proposal from February totaled $2 million in cuts. No elimination will be made to weekend bus or MAX service, except for the elimination of free rides in the Free Rail Zone.

•    Adjusting the LIFT paratransit service boundary, providing $400,000 in savings. TriMet's current LIFT door-to-door paratransit service exceeds Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations.

•    Reducing TriMet contribution to the Portland Streetcar, providing $300,000 in savings.

"Our revised proposal reflects the priorities we clearly heard from the public, which was to preserve service as the highest priority," said TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane.

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