(The Center Square) – A proposed operating budget for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is headed to the advisory committee for final reviews.
During Wednesday’s two-plus hour meeting, the seven-person board unanimously approved the proposed $2.7 billion fiscal year 2024 budget. The budgetary pact features a 7% increase over last year’s budget, provides for increased safety measures and corrections, and provides funding to hire 1,000 new hires.
Mary Anne O’Hara, chief financial officer for the organization, said the proposed budget considers new ridership numbers approved in March, applies Federal Transit Administration funding to offset expected expenses and includes one-time funding provided as seed money through Gov. Maura Healey’s proposed budget.
“First, the [fiscal year] 2024 budget will make more investments in additional safety positions to respond to the FTA,” O’Hara told the board, “correctives and corrective actions. Second, we will continue to invest in safety and enhance our training capacity. Third, will maximize efforts to fill these new budgeted positions in a very challenging labor market.
“The budget will maintain funds to enhance hiring and retention efforts. Next, the budget ensures funding for South Coast rail and bus network redesign. And lastly, the budget includes seed money from the governor’s House [Bill] 1 budget proposed for Means-Tested Fares program and has funds to prepare for fare transformation.”
O’Hara said the governor’s proposed budget would feature $100 million, if enacted, for bridge repairs, $70 million for station improvements, and an additional $11 million for the Red Blue Connector.
O’Hara said the budget would use $68 million to address the Federal Transit Administration’s directives for needed safety repair within the network.
O’Hara said the proposed budget relies on a $261 million of its deficiency fund reserve balance as income revenue would not be “sufficient to support all of our recurring expenses and approved initiatives.”
The organization, O’Hara said, was appropriated $378 million for safety responses to the Federal Transit Administration’s directives, and to date, $97 million has been spent.
O’Hara said the proposed budget includes funding for 7,643 positions, an increase of 1,000 new roles within the organization. That is 14% higher than last year, she said.
“For material supplies and service, a few factors contributed to this overall increase,” O’Hara said. “Most notably, it includes $24 million in new non-wage spending for FTA directive and corrective responses, including engineering, PPE, and IT needs. Rounding out the remainder of the increase in this category includes expanded scope contracts for full service on the Green Line Extension operations, utility pricing based on current market rates, and over a 6% inflation compared to this time last year.”
O’Hara said debt service would be set at nearly “$50 million below last year’s budget” as the “Treasury team continues to identify savings and manage overall stability of the portfolio for the long term.”
— Brent Addleman