While a part of the Albany compromise for the MTA bailout included a freeze on fare hikes until 2011, the whispers of an unplanned fare hike swirled amidst stories of the MTA’s poor fiscal state. Today, though, the agency put these rumors to bed with a release of its preliminary financial plan.
The latest iteration of the plan covers the 2010 fiscal year and includes a four-year budget projection as well. With money coming in from the payroll tax, fares and services are set to remain constant in 2010 but with hikes set to 7.5 percent and tied roughly into inflation scheduled for both 2011 and 2013.
The press release from the Authority bulleted the important parts:
- As promised to the Governor and Legislature, the 2010 budget includes no service cuts or fare increases.
- Projected cash balances of $29 million in 2009, $39 million in 2010 and $1 million in 2011. Manageable deficits are projected for 2012 and 2013.
- Significant spending restraints, building on the substantial expense reduction taken in 2009 to save $64 million in 2010. These savings grow to $279 million by 2013.
The MTA big wigs said all the right things. “We are grateful to Governor Paterson and the Legislature for their strong commitment to the transit system during this current economic downturn,” MTA Board Chairman H. Dale Hemmerdinger said with some rhetorical flourishes. “Meeting the MTA’s fiduciary responsibilities while sparing our customers from the drastic and painful measures proposed earlier this year will help us keep to our mission of providing safe, dependable and affordable public transportation.”
The interesting part of the timing of this announcement though is the fact that the final budget isn’t due for nearly five months. The MTA Board won’t pass the budget until December. In the meantime, the Board will hold extensive public comments on their latest financial plan and should try to wrangle more money from the state. Congestion pricing and East River tolls await.