Key Washington-area officials have recommended a $34 million cutback in spending for the Metro system, including severe reductions in hiring, in an attempt to hold down spiraling bus and subway costs.
The cuts, proposed by a special panel of county and city administrators, would represent a 9 percent reduction in the $384 million budget proposed by Metro General Manager Richard S. Page for the next fiscal year.
"I don't believe there are any intentional cuts made that would impact upon the delivery of service," said Fairfax County Executive J. Hamilton Lambert, the panel's chairman. "The entire region has been concerned about all costs, not just Metro."
Among the group's most controversial proposals is a plan to limit Metro's overall staff to 7,236 employes--well below the 7,597 recommended by Page and slightly lower than the 7,298 positions now authorized for Metro.
Some of the authorized positions currently are vacant, however. Officials who helped draw up the panel's plan said it would provide for an increase of 487 employes over total Metro employment, reported as 6,749 as of December.
A Metro official said yesterday that it is premature to respond to the group's proposals, which are expected to be considered by the transit authority's board of directors next week.
The recommendations, made public yesterday, were approved by senior officials from Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland. District of Columbia officials took part in the panel's review, but did not attend the session Wednesday at which the recommendations were adopted. District transportation chief Thomas Downs said yesterday that he had not yet examined the proposals and could not comment on them.
The panel also recommended a reduction in absenteeism among Metro employes aimed at saving $1 million and a $1.3 million cut in Page's proposals for training and other "new initiatives."
Other suggested budget reductions reflect lower estimates for costs, such as union wages and fuel, which are linked to inflation. Wages paid to many Metro employes are affected by inflation because labor union contracts include a cost-of-living clause pegged to the Consumer Price Index. Inflation has dropped since Metro officials initially drew up their proposed budget.
In another development yesterday, Metro officials moved to gain increased revenue through a controversial plan that may lead to higher fees for some private developers. The fees would be charged to developers whose buildings have entrances at subway stations.
A proposal expected to clear the way for negotiations over the new fees was approved by a committee of Metro board members. The Metro board, however, delayed action on the plan.