By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog
UPDATE: TriMet sent a statement in response to the audit and claims by Cascade Policy to Northwest Watchdog on Tuesday.
TriMet public information officer Mary Fetsch said the majority of the revenue increase in fiscal year 2012 came from a federal grant for fiscal year 2011. The real increase from 2011 to 2012 was around 3.1 percent when you take the grant out, she said, adding it was a timing issue of the federal government.
“We have a balanced budget, as required by state law, and we meet our current obligations for health care and pension benefits,” she said.
She also said the agency does have an operating loss but pointed out that the number does not consider payroll tax or federal grant money that is used to subsidize the operating fund.
Here is the original post:
PORTLAND | The region’s public transit agency is spending more money than it’s taking in, according to an annual audit released this week.
Despite a 19 percent increase in revenue from fiscal year 2011 to 2012, TriMet – or Tri County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon – still had to make service cuts and rate increases this month to fill a $12,000 budget shortfall in the current 2013 fiscal year that started July 1.
The high cost of employee benefits and capital projects is part of what’s driving the agency into debt. TriMet operated at a loss of $404,401 in 2012. The agency took in $140,513 in passenger fares and other revenue but spent $544,914 in costs including fringe benefits and labor, according to the audit.
Debt costs also continue to rise as projects under the agency haven’t ceased. TriMet, in conjunction with regional, federal and state partners, has already started construction on a $1.5 billion expansion of the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail project.
The construction project expands light rail via a 7.3-mile stretch from Portland State University to Oak Grove.
Critics argue the transportation’s seven member board, appointed by the governor, needs to make changes to the public transportation system if it’s going to remain viable.
“Without a fundamental change in the agency’s business model, transit service levels will continue to decline,” Cascade Policy Institute President and CEO John A. Charles, Jr. said. “Eventually, debt service to Wall Street bondholders and payments to retirees will become TriMet’s leading obligations, making it impossible to perform its mission of serving transit-dependent riders.”
Northwest Watchdog is seeking comment from TriMet about the ongoing budget struggle.