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CapMetro introduces FY 2016 budget

Tuesday, July 14, 2015 by Courtney Griffin

The Capital Metro Transportation Authority’s sales tax revenue stream is expected to reach historic heights in Fiscal Year 2016, which is a plus since the entity’s services are also slated for a hefty expansion as well.

On Monday, Chief Financial Officer Leslie Browder unveiled CapMetro’s proposed FY 2016 budget to board members at the Operations and Planning Committee meeting. The board is scheduled to adopt the final budget Sept. 28, days before CapMetro’s Oct. 1 fiscal year begins.

Preliminary figures show that CapMetro will take in about $279.3 million in operating revenue during FY 2016. Browder defines “operating revenue” as money from sales tax, rider fares and federal grants, with $6.7 million coming from “other” sources, according to board documents.

CapMetro will receive the majority of its operating revenue – 78 percent –from its local service area’s 1 percent sales tax contribution. The combined tax contributions are anticipated to equate to $217.1 million, an uptick from the $206.6 million it expects to receive in 2015.

“We have been very fortunate because over the years we’ve seen increases … but of course, the current levels reflect the abundant funds here in Austin,” Browder told committee members, noting that sales tax took a prolonged dive during recession years.

With a feast-or-famine mentality at the committee meeting, Browder advised the board members present to pad FY 2016 reserve funds just in case another dip in sales taxes was on a future horizon.

“What I would like to do is, while the sales taxes are coming in strong, start to fill in some more of the reserve budget stuff that was accrued several years ago,” she said, referring to additional reserve funding categories added in 2010.

Browder recommended that CapMetro begin contributing to a “budget stabilization reserve” that would buffer the blow if sales tax declined. She advised putting $7 million in the reserve next year, which would bring all of CapMetro’s multiple reserve funds to $70 million with an additional $28.1 million to play with, according to presented documents. CapMetro expects to have a $143 million fund balance at the end of FY 2015, she said.

But, Browder added that the transportation entity hopes to increase a variety of services and undertake several capital improvement projects in the next year as well.

The entity’s proposed FY 2016 operating expenses clock in at $244.9 million. According to board documents, Browder estimates the 2015 operating expenses will end up being about $221.4 million, which is notably below the original $240.2 million approved for FY 2015.

Between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016, MetroRapid plans to expand several of its programs, adding 1.1 million miles in additional bus services. Browder said staff will increase bus services along its “high frequency network,” which is made up of routes 7 (Duval/Dove Springs), 20 (Manor/Riverside), 300 (Govalle), 325 (Ohlen) and 331 (Oltorf).

The transportation entity also plans to modernize its bus fare system and add new bus services along the MoPac Expressway that will open when the road project completes.

In addition, MetroRail services will amp up for special events, continue providing weekend and evening services, add additional cars and undergo capital improvements such as positive train control.

Browder said two smaller CapMetro programs, MetroAccess and RideShare, have seen a large increase in demand, so services will be expanding there as well.

MetroAccess will provide an additional 53,600 hours of service, which is a 13 percent increase compared to current service levels. RideShare will provide an additional 83,100 hours of service, which is a 200 percent increase compared to current service levels.

Board members will hear a final presentation on the proposed budget July 27.

Austin Metrorail” by MichlaovicOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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