Capital Metro has proposed a $193.7 million fiscal year operating budget, which is a 12 percent increase over last year, and plans to spend $63.9 million in capital projects.
The transit authority anticipates bringing in $256.7 million in revenue, which includes a nearly 3 percent increase in sales tax revenue from $158.5 million to $163.2 million. Overall revenue is projected to be up 17 percent from fiscal year 2012, which ends Sept. 30. The board is scheduled to approve the fiscal year 2013 budget at its Sept. 24 meeting.
Also aiding the transit authority for what was projected to be its most difficult fiscal year, Financial Planning Director Frank Ordaz said, is a $15.9 million increase in the federal 5307 operating grant from $14.4 million to $30.3 million. This grant is allocated for transportation based on population, density and ridership numbers.
“We informed the board on Dec. 5,  that fiscal year 2013 was going to be our most difficult year in financial history,” Ordaz said.
Capital Metro has budgeted $11.9 million for interlocal agreement expenses and $4.4 million in loan payments.
The fiscal year 2013 budget includes several notable expenses:
• $4 million in pension contributions. The Capital Metro board opted to increase pension contributions by $2 million each year for the next 10 years to accommodate for the transfer to the new bus contractors, Communications Manager Francine Pares said. This will allow Capital Metro to fund the pension to 75 percent.
• $2 million for bus stop accessibility improvements, which includes $800,000 rolled over from FY2012. Capital Metro budgeted $1.8 million last year as part of an interlocal agreement with the City of Austin, but Chief Operating Officer Elaine Timbes said the initial contracts did not include a clause relating to the federal grant money the transit authority received. She said the contracts had to be redone and bids resolicited, thus resulting in Capital Metro and the city not being able to spend the entire $1.8 million last year.
• $10.3 million to continue replacing aging buses
• $24.9 million for the MetroRapid project, including $50,000 for the bus priority lane on Lavaca and Guadalupe streets in downtown Austin
Board members Frank Fernandez and John Langmore expressed concern that more money was not allocated for bus stop accessibility, especially considering that half a dozen people who use wheelchairs came to the Aug. 27 meeting to give the board their perspective on the need.
“We've been through three budget cycles and never fully spent out the money allocated toward it,” Fernandez said.
Langmore asked staff to provide a needs assessment of the total cost to make all the bus stops accessible to people with disabilities.
“I would like to see a dollar figure of the needs so we can see how well or how poorly we're meeting the needs of the community,” he said.
Capital Metro is offering several options for citizens to weigh in on the proposed budget, ask questions and offer suggestions. An open house will be held Sept. 6 from 5–8 p.m. at the Capital Metro headquarters, 2910 E. Fifth St. The transit authority also will host a webinar Sept. 7.
The public hearing for the budget will be Sept. 17 at 5 p.m. at the Capital Metro headquarters. The budget will be posted on Capital Metro's website Aug. 30.