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A new fiscal fitness program: WMATA proposes FY2004 budget


Facing a $48 million shortfall, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Chief Executive Officer Richard White and his staff must figure out how to come up with a fiscally responsible, yet forward-thinking, FY2004 budget.

They hope they’ve pulled it off.

On Dec. 12, White presented his proposed FY2004 operating and capital budgets to the WMATA board budget committee. The proposal calls for increases in police and safety capabilities, along with management cuts designed to reduce expenses by $24 million. The total budget request of $1.2 billion is slightly less than FY2003’s $1.4 billion.

"While ridership is continuing to grow, it is not growing at the same 6 percent to 7 percent rate we were experiencing previously," White said in a prepared statement. "At the same time, we have incurred higher operating costs for paratransit services and insurance rates have increased."

The proposed FY2004 operating budget is $898 million, a 5.5 percent increase compared with FY2003, with the local jurisdictions’ share increasing to $422.5 million, a 4.5 percent increase compared with $404 million the previous fiscal year.

On the security front, WMATA plans to:

• Add 18 Metro Transit Police officers to increase security at core transfer stations;

• Add 15 special police to increase security at Metro facilities;

• Add 20 maintenance staff to maintain new capitally funded security systems; and

• Add eight positions for parking-facility-related maintenance positions.

To help cover the anticipated $48 million shortfall, WMATA plans to:

• Eliminate 102 management and administrative positions through staff reductions and "early out" programs;

• Reduce 140 capital and operating reimbursable positions;

• Save funds through a locked-in diesel fuel contract price;

• Save funds by reducing the use of professional and technical services; and

• Look into ways to increase passenger revenue by $24 million.

"The staff reductions and cost-control measures are the farthest we can go at this time without affecting bus and rail service for our customers," White said.

WMATA’s proposed Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for FY2004 totals $291.1 million. But due to funding constraints, the six-year Infrastructure Renewal Program (IRP) is $274.5 million less than the previous board-adopted program.

"Our first priority under the Capital Improvement Program is to preserve and maintain our rail and bus infrastructure systems," White said. "At this time, the Infrastructure Renewal Program (IRP) portion of the CIP is funded through 2006. However, in the last three years, we see an 18 percent reduction in funds from the previously adopted program. While we do have time to address these issues, it is imperative that we secure a funding source in the out years to preserve safe and reliable operations for our customers."

In FY2004, funds are available in the IRP portion of the CIP to support bus procurement, rail car rehabilitation, and the preservation of passenger facilities, maintenance facilities, tracks, structures and systems.

Casualties of the reduced IRP funding in FY 2006-FY 2009 would include: a reduction in the bus procurement from 650 to 380 buses (42 percent reduction); deferral of the conversion of a third CNG facility for one year; deferral of the parking lot structure rehabilitation program; and deferral of rail and bus support equipment, non-revenue vehicle replacement, and facility upgrade program.

Under the CIP’s System Access Program, FY 2004 funds are available to make improvements to the Ballston Metrorail station to handle the growing ridership, and automatic train control precision stopping. But no funding is available to pick up an existing contract option to purchase an additional 120 rail cars including rail maintenance and storage, and associated systems support, WMATA says.

Under the CIP’s System Expansion Program, FY 2004 funds are available for continued project development and for the Blue Line extension to the Largo Town Center. Work continues on the New York Avenue Metrorail station and the Dulles Corridor project.

"The budget presented today represents a new way of thinking and looking ahead to the future," White said. "These preliminary recommendations were made with the goal of being able to responsibly balance our budget while at the same time not reducing rail and bus service."

White and the WMATA will spend the next several months working to achieve that fiscally responsible/forward-thinking balance. The FY2004 budget is scheduled to into effect July 1, 2003.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/13/2002