BART faces a $249 million budget shortfall over the next four years and the agency says reducing labor costs must solve a substantial portion of that deficit in order to not overburden riders with higher-than-proposed fares and fee increases or significant service cuts.
The nine-member BART Board of Directors met Thursday and discussed staff-proposed cost reductions, fare hikes, parking fees and service changes as one component to resolving the budget shortfall. Board members are also targeting $100 million in labor cost reductions as the employees’ fair share of the solution.
UNION NEGOTIATIONS NOW UNDERWAY
The contracts with all five of BART’s unions expire on June 30, 2009. BART recently began meeting with union representatives and presented a shopping list of options to the unions with a target of $100 million in cuts as the employees’ fair share of the overall problem. The agency is asking for the employees to pick up more of the cost of their benefits and pensions so riders and taxpayers don’t have to. In addition, BART proposed to eliminate contract language that limits the agency’s right to improve productivity by changing inefficient, costly and outdated work rules.
"BART employees do an excellent job for the public and have and deserve excellent benefits," BART Board President Thomas Blalock said. "The problem is BART riders and taxpayers are the ones who pick up nearly the entire cost of all of those benefits. Given the grim economic times we face, unless our workers agree to share in more of the cost of their own health care and pension benefits and agree to productivity improvements, BART will be forced to lay off employees, cut service and further increase fares and fees. We cannot expect the public to carry the full load through additional fare increases and service cuts. We need our employees to share in those costs - just like most of our riders do at their own jobs."
ROLLING OVER CONTRACTS IS NOT A SUSTAINABLE OPTION
Although the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) proposed a one-year roll-over of the contract, it does nothing to reduce costs and close the deficit. Even without a salary increase, the cost of maintaining current benefits contributes $116 million to the agency’s deficit over the next four years.
"During these extraordinarily difficult economic times, that’s not fair or sustainable," Blalock said. "Our employees must shoulder their fair share of the burden. Contract negotiations will be key to balancing our budget. In today’s economic reality, asking our employees to contribute $100 million over the next four years toward solving the deficit is reasonable, especially because we’re not proposing massive layoffs or salary cuts."
"BART values its employees and the excellent service they provide the Bay Area each and every day," BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger said. "BART equally values its riders and we must balance the needs of our employees with those of our riders. That’s why we are placing an increased emphasis on financial stability to ensure BART’s operation into the future in these uncertain economic times. Rolling over contracts or using one-time fixes jeopardizes BART’s long-term financial health because that doesn’t solve our structural issues – it simply puts a patch on them, causing our financial problems to worsen and become much more difficult to fix down the road."
BART BOARD DISCUSSES WAYS TO CUT COSTS, RAISE REVENUES
At their meeting Thursday, BART Board members discussed additional ways to cut costs and raise revenues. BART is not immune to the statewide and global economic crisis. The nearly $250 million deficit is due in large part to one of the steepest declines of sales tax revenues in BART history, the total elimination of state financial assistance and declining ridership because of job losses in the region. In fiscal year 2010 (FY10) alone, the transit agency must grapple with a $54 million deficit. The fiscal year starts July 1.
BART staff members are proposing to reduce the FY10 $54 million shortfall to $23 million through costs cuts and revenue generating measures including:
- 0% wage increase (subject to labor negotiations)
- 100 position cuts
- 20 minute service on weekday evenings & weekends
- One route service on weekday evenings & weekends at Colma, South S.F. and San Bruno stations
- 10% fare increase on July 1, 2009, including raising SFO premium fare
- Modifying East Bay parking policy to add more stations to the $1/day parking program
BART has a total of 3,225 active employees. BART’s five unions represent 2,824 of those workers. The remaining 401 workers are non-union employees.
The unions are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 3993 (AFSCME), which represents mostly middle managers; the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 1555 (ATU), which represents mostly Train Operators, Station Agents and Foreworkers; the BART Police Managers Association (BPMA), which represents sergeants, lieutenants and commanders; the BART Police Officers Association (BPOA), which represents rank and file officers; and the Service Employees International Union, Local 1021, which represents mostly mechanics and clerical employees.
The public can comment on the BART budget process at any public meeting of the Board of Directors. Notices and agendas for Board meetings are posted on the Monday before regularly scheduled Thursday meetings.