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September 18, 2002
Transit agency faces sales tax shortfall
DART Board approves $582 million budget
DART has approved a budget for the coming year that will keep one of the nation's largest transit expansion programs moving forward.
The weak regional economy, lagging sales tax revenue and the expense of operating a rail system that has doubled in size have created significant challenges, DART officials said. Sales tax revenue is projected to be up to $80 million below initial agency projections. DART receives 1 percent of the sales tax collected in its 13 member cities. This accounts for about 80 percent of DART's income. Other sources include transit fares, interest income, federal funds and grants.
The FY 2003 budget eliminates 149 positions, 119 of which are vacant. The 30 displaced employees will be considered for other agency positions before the end of October. Those employees will be laid off if they cannot be placed internally.
The budget provides a 4 percent salary increase for hourly workers and a 2.5 percent merit raise pool for salaried workers. Employees will pay more for their health insurance in FY 2003.
To generate additional revenue, DART's board will consider the agency's first fare increase since 1995. Public meetings on the possible increase are planned for later this year. To contain costs, DART will reduce light rail service frequency from 15 minutes to 20 minutes on evenings and weekends and reduce the number of light rail vehicles operating during off-peak periods. DART also is planning reductions in the operating hours of some transit centers.
The budget approved on September 17 includes $305.7 million in operating expenses, $258.4 million in capital projects and $17.5 million to fund debt service. DART's operating budget for FY 2002 was $291.5 million. DART's fiscal year begins October 1.
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