Muni deficit deeper than anticipated

Just three months into the current fiscal year, the Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, is working to close a $45.1 million deficit.

Despite a recent fare hike and a move to alter routes to save money through efficiency, the transit agency is in the red due to lower-than-predicted returns from parking meters, an impasse with the taxi industry and an unexpected spike in operating costs.

In order to make up for some of the projected shortfall, the transit agency, which closed a $129 million budget deficit last fiscal year, is looking to implement $25.5 million in savings that includes eliminating 250 positions, which includes some jobs that are currently vacant. The projected budget deficit is a combination of declining revenue and increased expenditures, documents show.

Three months into the fiscal year that began July 1, the transit agency is forecasting that parking tickets and meter collections are now $12 million lower than once projected. In addition, a much-debated plan to sell taxi medallions has not materialized, leaving a $7.5 million hole.

Unexpected increases in salaries, benefits, materials and supplies have also hurt, resulting in $25.6 million in extra expenditures that weren’t budgeted.

To help partially plug the gap, the transit agency will explore eliminating 250 positions — all nonoperators — which could save $12.3 million. It’s also hoping to receive $6.7 million in federal stimulus funds and save $5 million in overtime restrictions.

Along with $1.5 million saved in changing operators’ schedules, the transit agency hopes to gain an extra $25.5 million throughout the fiscal year. But it would still be left $19.6 million short.

“We will work to manage this shortfall and continue to provide safe and reliable service to our customers,” spokesman Judson True said.

There are a number of uncertainties with the revised budget. None of the $25.5 million that the transit agency has now penciled in as an amendment to this year’s budget has been realized. Also, bringing in $7.5 million from the taxicab industry — which has been under the Municipal Transportation Agency’s jurisdiction since March 1 — is also uncertain, according to Tom Nolan, chairman of the board of directors.

“We’re still a long way from an agreement with the taxicab industry,” he said. “I don’t know what we’re going to do right now to achieve that money.”

Revamped service was also supposed to save $13.4 million this year, but it’s already two months behind schedule. On Monday, Muni unveiled details of the new service on its Web site. The changes are scheduled to take effect Dec. 5.

Muni staff will make a budget presentation today at the board of directors meeting.

Running on empty

Just three months into the fiscal year that started July 1, the Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, is working to close a projected budget deficit of $45.1 million, some of which has been erased with solutions. How the math works out as of Oct. 15:

$19.5 million Shortfall in revenue

$25.6 million Increase in expenditures

$45.1 million Subtotal of shortfall

$25.5 million Potential solutions

$19.6 million Total deficit left

Source: MTA

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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