New service cuts could be in MARTA’s future

3 Apr

The AJC reported yesterday that the state legislature’s failure to pass a bill suspending MARTA’s  50/50 revenue-spending split is likely to result in “deep service cuts.”

HB 1052 would have lifted until 2016 the requirement that half of the agency’s revenue be set aside for capital expenses and half used for capital improvements. The current exemption to that law will remain in effect until July 2013.

“The transit agency, banking on commitments from legislators,  expected to keep the exemption for at least three more years but without it expects to lose a projected total of  $9.7 million during that time,” The AJC reported.

MARTA officials wanted the spending limits permanently lifted, but had agreed to the three-year suspension as a compromise. But a group of Democrats in the House opposed the measure because they wanted a more permanent fix. The result was that the legislation was, in the words of MARTOC Chairman Mike Jacobs, “torpedoed.”

The legislature could pass the bill early next session, which would keep the exemption in effect, Jacobs said. If that doesn’t happen, the combination of still-low sales tax revenue and the spending restriction will force the agency to “gut significant parts of the service,” MARTA’s General Manager, Beverly Scott told The AJC.

MARTA is also looking at other was to trim costs, including increasing non-union employees’ health care contributions and reducing management staff, The AJC reported. The agency expects to find even more places to cut expenses when it analyzes the findings from the second part of a three-phase audit at the end of this year.

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