On Wednesday, Lane Transit District held a virtual public hearing on its proposed budget for next year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, LTD is projecting a $12 million reduction in employer and employee payroll taxes, fares, special services, and group pass program over the next year. Revenue that supports more than 80% of LTD’s annual operations.
To prepare for the expected operating budget shortfall, LTD will reduce its workforce from 325 employees to 287 through lay-offs, retirements, and not filling open positions.
That means eliminating the positions of 38 staff members.
That includes some bus operators, maintenance staff, and employees in other positions will have their positions eliminated, effective June 6. This is in addition to the 14 administrative employees that were laid off on May 22.
All LTD administrative employees will be required to take one furlough day a month.
LTD Director of Finance Christina Shew says she expects to use its $25 million allotment from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, over the next few years.
“In this current fiscal year, we’re expected to use about $4.3 million and then we’re expected to use another $18.3 million by the end of fiscal year ,” said Shew. “Which means by the end of fiscal year , we are budgeting to use $22.7 million of the $25 million grant. Which means there would only be $2.3 million remaining.”
During the pandemic, Monday through Friday ridership has also decreased from 35,000 boardings per day to approximately 10,000.
In an LTD press release, General Manager Aurora Jackson said the pandemic has caused them to make some hard decisions.
“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,” wrote Jackson. “We will review service levels weekly to respond to community needs should the demand for service increase.”
LTD will also reduce spending by continuing to operate under its reduced level of service Mondays-Saturdays. Beginning June 7, LTD will resume service on Sundays.
LTD has received $25 million through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These funds will be used to balance projected operating gaps in the current budget, next year’s budget, and future fiscal years.
“CARES Act funding is a lifeline to LTD from the federal government, but it is not the solution to our present budget challenges,” wrote Jackson. “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.”
Projects such as Transit Tomorrow and MovingAhead are still postponed. Construction of the new Santa Clara Transit Station will continue based on the funding requirements from the project’s state and federal sources.
The LTD Board will approve a final operating budget on Wednesday, June 24.