BOSTON, MARCH 11, 2015…..State transportation officials on Wednesday approved a preliminary $2 billion operating budget for the MBTA in fiscal year 2016 as expenses and debt service outpace revenues at the troubled public transit agency.
Jonathan Davis, the agency’s chief financial officer, said the MBTA’s operating budget, with debt service, is expected to increase 4.5 percent over the fiscal 2015 budget, while revenues will likely rise 2.3 percent. Without debt service, the budget would increase 3.9 percent.
Without $187 million in proposed assistance from the state, the MBTA would face a $170 million structural deficit.
“That’s why we’re able to have a positive bottom line,” Davis told members of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s board of directors before their vote.
The preliminary budget does not include service cuts, Davis said, and contains about $12 million for “additional service” that hasn’t been defined yet. He said that could go towards providing late-night MBTA service if transportation officials decide to continue the pilot program.
The budget proposal also includes $10 million for maintenance of aging Orange and Red Line cars, Davis said.
Under the preliminary budget, the MBTA would pay $452 million in debt service expenses.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget includes the $187 million. A top House lawmaker, Quincy Democrat Ron Mariano, has said giving more money to the MBTA is “kind of crazy,” and the agency must first show they can use money “effectively and judiciously.”
Baker has tasked a panel with reviewing the agency’s operations in the wake of poor performance caused by equipment failures and several winter storms hitting the public transit system.
Baker’s budget proposal also includes an outside section that establishes an $11.7 million “weather resiliency fund” that will likely include snow-fighting equipment and other programs. The MBTA will receive some guidance on what to spend it on through a planned peer review by other similar public transit agencies.
The MBTA’s preliminary budget will be submitted to the transit agency’s advisory board for review, and a final budget will be submitted to the MBTA board of directors by April 15.
The MBTA is expecting a 2.1 percent increase in passenger trips, rising to 409 million trips in fiscal 2016. Net parking revenue and advertising revenue is also expected to rise.
Fiscal year 2016 starts on July 1.
Copyright 2015 State House News Service