Click here for Part IV.
In Part II of this report I covered $146m of the four-year plan to cover Metro’s $501m budget gap. Today, I’ll briefly go over some financial pieces of the puzzle before discussing the tax element, all below the jump.
As the chart in Part I indicates, $40m is to come from spending part of Metro’s operating reserve. Metro currently keeps 30 days of operating expenditure in the bank in case of natural disaster or other emergencies. Triplett intends to “borrow” 2 weeks of this reserve to patch the budget hole, before replenishing it in 2014. Councilmember Julia Patterson (Seatac, Kent) criticized this move as “too risky” and proposed further administrative cuts instead.
The next item, netting $100m over four years, is the very fortuitous discovery of a surplus in the fleet replacement fund, where Metro saves up to buy the next batch of buses. Larry Phillips’s plan used this up in only two years to avoid cuts altogether, but Triplett spreads it out over four. This was the first significant finding released from the ongoing Metro audit, and was initially reported to be $105m. It’s not clear why there’s a $5m discrepancy.
The last item on the budget chart, totaling $31m, isn’t one of the nine points, but reflects “technical budget adjustments.” This money is a combination of fuel and labor prices coming in below projection, as well as money from property sales.
Last session, the legislature authorized King County to assess up to .0075% the value of a house, or 7.5 cents per $1000 of value, for transit, as long as one cent of that was devoted to SR520 service that activated federal grants for that project. Rather than raise property taxes, Triplett wants to cut the foot ferry property tax from 5 cents 5.5 cents to 0.5 cents 1 cent and 1 cent from an Automated Fingerprint Identification System levy. Together, that provides 5.5 cents of property tax for buses. 4.5 cents of that amounts to the $40m claimed here.
Triplett wants the 4.5 cents to be specifically dedicated to RapidRide, rather than dumped into the amorphous Metro general fund. That will not cover the entire cost of this system, but it will allow taxpayers to “see it, touch it, and see [their property tax dollars] sustaining something”.
Due to State and Federal requirements, the other cent must be provably spent on new SR 520 services. As part of a federal tolling program, the Feds offered up $41m to buy new buses. According to Triplett, the service hours for those buses were “supposed to be funded with tolls” but “the State wasn’t ready to do that.”
The 1 cent slice will fund 40-45 round trips a day, and due to those Federal requirements it’s unlikely to simply be more trips on the 255 or 271. Instead, it will probably be entirely new service, “maybe RapidRide,” but “there’s no decision on what it will look like,” said Triplett.
Triplett also points out that “there’s still 2 cents out there,” meaning that the next Executive could raise another $6m a year for transit if they’re willing to raise taxes.
That takes us up to $357m out of the $501m hole. Tomorrow: the fare increase and the audit results.