Port Authority approves budget anticipating service cuts, layoffs and rising fares

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The Port Authority board this morning approved an austere $333 million operating budget for fiscal 2013 that is balanced by a pending fare hike, service cuts and layoffs.

Both Port Authority chief executive officer Steve Bland and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85 assistant business agent Steve Palonis expressed optimism that meetings they're holding with county and state representatives will enable them to stave off the service cuts.

Nevertheless, authority chairman John A. Brooks called the budget "grim."

"This is not ideal, yet we are obligated to adopt a balanced budget," Mr. Brooks said.

There were no surprises about the bad-news budget. Mr. Bland has long warned that the current fiscal structure is unsustainable amid high retiree costs and declining state aid.

Board members signed off on the budget during a regular meeting at the authority's Downtown headquarters. They had already voted to raise fares July 1 and cut service by 35 percent Sept. 2.

The budget assumes that the authority will not settle with Amalgamated Transit Union Local 85, whose contract expires at the end of the month. Low-key negotiations are underway.

The budget is 10 percent smaller than this year's $370 million. To balance the fiscal 2012 budget the authority had to resort to dipping into reserves and using one-time revenue totaling nearly $41 million.

State and county aid remain flat.

Upcoming service cuts include elimination of 46 bus routes and reduction of service on the remaining 54 routes and the light rail transit system.

About 560 positions -- almost a quarter of total manpower -- will be eliminated.

Other expenses anticipated by the authority during the coming year are steady high fuel prices, a nearly 6 percent hike in medical premiums and an increased pension contribution of almost 14 percent to $37.9 million.

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Jonathan D. Silver: jsilver@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1962. First Published June 22, 2012 10:45 AM


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