2015-2016 biennial budget fully funds existing service levels at Metro, prevents proposed reductions of nearly 400,000 annual service hours
StoryToday’s vote by the Metropolitan King County Council fully funded current levels of Metro service. The unanimously adopted 2015-2016 biennial King County Budget ensures that 400,000 annual hours of proposed service reductions at Metro Transit will not take place.
Following the defeat of Proposition 1 in April of this year, County Executive Dow Constantine asked the Council to approve legislation that would have reduced Metro bus service by 550,000 hours between September 2014 and September 2015.
In July, after months of debate, the Council passed compromise legislation, sponsored by Councilmember Rod Dembowski. The compromise adopted only the service reductions originally proposed for September of this year, totaling 151,000 hours of annual bus service. These reductions cut bus routes that were in the bottom 25 percent of productivity, in accordance with the County’s adopted Transit Service Guidelines. Further reductions were deferred pending additional Council action and the adoption of the 2015-2016 budget.
“It has been an uncertain time for the nearly 200,000 people who rely on Metro every day to get to work, school, and medical appointments,” said Councilmember Dembowski, Chair of the Council’s Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “Today’s action sent a clear, definitive, and united message from the County Council – there will be no further reductions of Metro bus service in this budget cycle. At the same time, we are growing reserves to prepare for a future recession.”
The growing economy coupled with additional efficiencies identified by Metro allowed the Council to stave off further cuts. The independent Office of Economic and Financial Analysis released their Metro sales-tax forecast in March and July of this year, which came in much more robust than previously projected.
“We live in one of the fastest growing counties in the nation and the demand for an efficient and reliable transportation system is higher than ever, this is not a time to be cutting service,” said Dembowski.
In June of this year, the Council passed legislation co-sponsored by Dembowski requesting Metro and the County Executive consider several strategies to reduce or prevent the proposed service reductions. Over the summer, Metro engaged in another top-to-bottom review of their budget, and identified $120 million in savings over the biennium.
“The process leading to the unanimous vote to prevent all remaining service reductions has been a challenging one, but it has been a challenge worth tackling,” said Dembowski. “We saved hundreds of thousands of hours of transit service and we have protected vulnerable members of our community, our burgeoning economic recovery, as well as the environment.”
Today’s vote also reaffirmed the Council’s commitment to increase efficiencies and strengthen Metro’s financial stability. The adopted 2015-2016 biennial King County Budget fully funds a first of its kind, independent auditor of Metro Transit. The Metro auditor will function within the independent King County Auditor’s office and will be responsible for ongoing reviews and audits of Metro’s near billion dollar annual budget. Legislation creating the Metro audit function was authored by Councilmember Dembowski and unanimously approved by the County Council on November 10th.
“We have repeatedly demonstrated that audits save money,” said Dembowski. “Audits also increase transparency which improves accountability and fosters more trust with the public. The public needs to know that their money is being spent wisely, and I believe this legislation will help give the public confidence that Metro is being as efficient as possible.”
The budget also builds robust rainy-day reserves necessary to fund the system in the event of a future recession. Dembowski also proposed a budget amendment to analyze the costs and benefits of transitioning to a cashless fare system and eliminating paper transfers.