LTD Sets Budget Hearing For May 27
Media Contact: Pat Walsh
Lane Transit District (LTD) will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021 on Wednesday, May 27, 2020, at 5:30 p.m. via ZOOM. Meeting details are provided at LTD.org. The new fiscal year will begin July 1, 2020.
“With all economic indicators pointing to unemployment remaining high, employer and employee tax revenues will be lower for the foreseeable future,” said Aurora Jackson, LTD’s general manager. “The projected decrease in payroll taxes, fares, and ridership are unintended consequences from the extended period of time that businesses have been closed and people have been ordered to stay home to limit exposure to COVID-19.”
LTD is projecting a $12 million reduction in employer and employee payroll taxes, fares, special services, and group pass program over the next year, that fund more than 80 percent of the District’s annual revenues for operation. During the pandemic, Monday through Friday ridership has also decreased from 35,000 boardings per day to approximately 10,000.
In 2019, the District’s Board of Directors adopted a $55 million operating budget. Employer and employee payroll taxes, fares, special services, and passes contributed $45 million to the annual operations budget.
“COVID-19 has dealt all of us an unexpected blow, but LTD must continue to operate within its budget,” Jackson said. “We have evaluated the District’s operations and have made some very hard decisions that impact our employees and the service LTD provides to the communities we serve.”
To meet the expected operating budget shortfall, LTD will reduce its workforce from 325 employees to 287 through lay-offs, retirements, and not filling open positions. Some bus operators, maintenance staff, and those working other positions will have their positions eliminated, effective June 6, 2020. The current workforce reduction is in addition to the 14 administrative employees notified in early May that their positions would be eliminated effective May 22.
“These are valuable and committed employees who bring their best to serve our passengers and our community,” Jackson said. “This was a very, very difficult decision.”
In addition to lower fuel costs and a reduced workforce, the District will also reduce spending by continuing to operate under its reduced, essential trips only level of service schedule on Monday through Saturday, and will add back service on Sundays beginning June 7.
LTD’s paratransit service, RideSource, continues to operate regular reduced service Monday through Saturday for essential trips only. On Sundays, RideSource provides para-transit service on a Sunday-level of service for medically essential trips only.
“With fewer people working, passengers observing the Stay Home, Save Lives Order, and UO and LCC students out of town or going to school online, ridership has plummeted, which means fares and pass revenues are down as well,” Jackson said. “We will review service levels weekly to respond to community needs should the demand for service increase.”
Moving forward, all LTD administrative employees will be required to take one furlough day per month. Projects such as Transit Tomorrow and MovingAhead remain on hold. Construction of the new Santa Clara Transit Station will continue based on the funding requirements from the project’s state and federal sources.
The $25 million LTD received from the CARES Act will also be used to balance the current 2019-2020 budget, the proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021, and the following fiscal years to fill additional projected operating budget gaps.
“CARES Act funding is a lifeline to LTD from the federal government, but it is not the solution to our present budget challenges,” Jackson said. “We are grateful for the hard work our Congressional delegation did to secure the funding. However, we must be prudent in how these one-time funds are used. There is still a lot of economic uncertainty ahead of us.’
The LTD Board will approve a final operating budget on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, beginning at 5 PM. All LTD Board Meetings are open to the public via ZOOM. Meeting and operating budget information is at LTD.org/annual-budget/.