San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board members learned at today’s meeting that the agency will not be able to use any of the recently announced money from the state to help the budget deficit for fiscal year 2010, leaving a $12.1 million budget gap for this year.
Staff called this good news for 2011, but bad news for 2010. Before this morning, staff predicted that the agency could utilize $17 million of the $35.9 million the agency is expecting from the state to close this gap, leaving $18.5 million for fiscal year 2011.
The state funding allocation was part of a complicated gas-tax bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on March 22. Today, the agency learned that state money won’t reach city coffers until July 1, the start of fiscal year 2011. SFMTA executive director Nathaniel Ford said they are still working on ways to get an advance on the funding through loans or otherwise.
In addition, Ford indicated that the transport worker unions have received updated schedules that include modifications necessary to make the 10 percent service cuts planned to go into effect May 1.
Ford said the union is reviewing those changes, but the agency is uncertain how long the review will take. Postponing anything would ultimately have a ripple effect on the current budget deficit, said Ford, of approximately $2.4 million per month.
“If we are not able to implement the May 1 cuts by June 1, that increases our deficit by $2.4 million,” he said, adding that the agency is working with the union to expedite the process.
Still, a representative for the city advisory council gave a presentation that suggested the agency avoid cutting services too aggressively, especially considering baseline minimums for the number of service hours required by the city charter.
Ford said he was fairly certain the staff has taken this baseline into account. “What we have here is a minimum level of service hours but we don’t have a minimum level of funding,” he said.
Solutions suggested by staff today to fill the budget gap still include charging for parking on Sundays, adding an additional 1,000 new metered spaces, and eliminating free permit parking for city workers, among other things.
Board members also discussed possible ballot measures as long-term solutions for continuous sources of revenue, favoring a measure that would increase taxes on commercial off-street parking that they suggest could bring in $20 million annually.
Any ballot measures that would land on the November ballot would have to be submitted by June 15, which board members agreed is a bit of a time crunch. “We’re up against the wall now,” Ford said.
The SFMTA board has until May 1 to submit a balanced budget for fiscal years 2011 and 2012 to the Board of Supervisors for approval.