Wiedefeld declined to release further details about the revenue slump or how it might be covered, but said he would brief board members publicly at a scheduled Feb. 23 finance committee meeting.
“There are some issues,” Wiedefeld said. “It’s driven by the revenue side not performing as well as we had projected. But remember, our projections were done almost 18 months ago now, before SafeTrack was even thought of … We will manage it, just like we manage the budget all the time.
“It gets tougher and tougher, as the pantry gets bare of the tools that we can bring to bear,” Wiedefeld said. “But we will do what we have to do.”
Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans said Wiedefeld has briefed him on the issue.
“He assures me that we’ll be able to manage these financial pressures,” Evans said. And if the situation becomes dire, Evans said the District is prepared to hand over extra money to Metro to help eliminate the shortfall — as long as the other jurisdictions chip in as well.
“If we had to, we could,” Evans said.
It’s been clear for some time that planned SafeTrack service disruptions, along with unplanned breakdowns and emergency track repairs, would impact ridership revenue. Finance committee chairman Michael Goldman warned the same thing last week, when he explained that board members are considering increasing the amount of federal capital funds that the agency uses to pay for short-term maintenance costs, even though it’s a practice that’s frowned upon by Congress.
Last year, Metro decided to use $91 million in federal capital funds to pay for maintenance. Wiedefeld has proposed using $60 million in next year’s budget, but board members may push him to up that amount to $70 million-$80 million.
Several board members say they would like to use that extra money to help stave off fare increases or service cuts. But Goldman warned that his colleagues might be jumping too far ahead of themselves. There’s a very real chance that the money will be needed to retroactively plug a hole in this year’s budget.
“We don’t know to what extent SafeTrack work has resulted in a loss of revenue that’s greater than anticipated for this fiscal year, and we don’t know if there’s a big hole that has to be back-filled by the jurisdictions,” Goldman said.“It’s kind of a lot of moving pieces.”