TriMet publishes proposed FY13 budget

TriMet has published its proposed FY13 budget. I’ll peruse it a bit more myself later tonight, but a few observations courtesy of OPAL after the jump (sorry, Facebook access required for the OPAL link).

I’m not endorsing any conclusion which may be implied by OPAL; however, these are good questions to be asking.

  • Contribution to the Streetcar is $9.3M, prior contribution was $6M. Initial planned contribution was $9.6M, the $300k difference has been portrayed by TriMet as a cut. OPAL seems to regard the Streetcar (and TriMet’s contribution thereto) as a luxury item and a waste of money, and appears to skeptical of TriMet getting too much involved in getting into the land-use business, and appears to be opposed to some (if not all) of this subsidy. The increase is due to the upcoming opening of the Eastside Streetcar. TriMet’s position is that its funding of the Streetcar is essentially the same amount of money that it would take to provide equivalent bus service on the route.
  • OPAL also points out that the agency’s contingency fund is $20M rather than $10M. TriMet includes the following comments in the budget (pages 11-12)–apologies if there are any errors, as the budget PDF disallows copy-and-paste, so I’m typing this in by hand:

    Budget “best practice” requires the establishment of reserves or “contingency” to provide an entity with a source of funds to provide for unexpected costs. TriMet’s FY13 Contingency is $20 million, which represents 1.5% of Total Requirements. Under State law, the use of funds in the Contingency requires a resolution of the TriMet Board before funds can be transferred and expended. If the Contingency Funds are not used in FY13, they become part of the Ending Fund Balance and are available for FY13 cash flow. Given the uncertainties facing TriMet in FY13, including the outcome of a decision by the ERB relating to past union health care costs, uncertainty about future health care costs which result from the labor contract, diesel fuel and the cost of other materials, and the economy, a contingency of 1.5% of total requirements is prudent but very modest
    This level of contingency is expected to provide TriMet with sufficient resources to withstand a modest decline in revenue or modest cost increases compared to budget. Given the uncertainties in the economy and the labor environment, the Contingency is sized to provide sufficient funding for operations in the event of adverse results in the fiscal year.

    The big question: Should they lose to the union, can TriMet keep service levels the same by consuming the contingency fund (at least for FY13), or will another round of cuts be coming down the pipe?

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