SFMTA ready to spend state funding

For the first time since unexpectedly receiving $36 million from the state, the cash-strapped San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will present its latest proposals for balancing a $56.4 million budget deficit at its board of directors meeting Tuesday.

To help make up its shortfall for next fiscal year, which begins July 1, the transit agency initially proposed a number of different measures, including extending parking meter enforcement to Sundays, increasing fares annually based on inflation and consolidating bus stops.

However, on March 22, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a complicated gas-tax bill that will deliver $36 million to the SFMTA in one lump sum in June, and it’s now mulling how to use that money.

Even though the state funding will arrive just a few days before this fiscal year ends June 30, the transit agency is considering using the money to address its midyear budget problems.

In February, the SFMTA board approved a series of measures to balance a then-$12.2 million deficit, but those proposals included massive service reductions and an increase to some Fast Pass fares — two unpopular moves that Mayor Gavin Newsom and other city officials said they would like to reverse, or at least scale back, with the $36 million.

Also, there are several factors to that budget process that have not been realized, notably a $7 million funding request from the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, which manages The City’s transportation tax, and $14.4 million in projected revenue from taxi medallion sales. There’s a possibility that portions of the $36 million could be used to fill those cracks.

On Tuesday, the SFMTA will present its recommendations for how to spend the $36 million, along with update its proposals to balance the $56.4 million budget deficit for next fiscal year. Despite the $36 million injection, SFMTA chief Nathaniel Ford said all revenue-generating proposals for next fiscal year remain on the table.

As part of the bill signed by Schwarzenegger, the SFMTA stands to receive another $31 million for the 2011-12 fiscal year. Ford indicated that the transit agency may be able to restore, and possibly expand, service at that time with the additional funding.


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