BART passes new budget ahead of projected fiscal cliff, but with some pushback

ByTim Johns KGO logo
Saturday, June 15, 2024
BART passes new budget ahead of projected fiscal cliff with pushback
With a vote of 9-2, the BART board of directors passed their new budget for the next two fiscal years.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The BART board of directors passed their new budget for the next two fiscal years with a vote of 9-2 on Thursday.

The move coming ahead of an expected fiscal cliff.

Since the pandemic, the transit agency has largely relied on federal and state money to keep it afloat.

But that money is expected to run out around April 2026, and BART is facing the prospect of annual deficits between $300 to $400 million.

"We have a crisis on our hands," said Debora Allen.

Allen is a BART board director and one of the two members to vote against the budget on Thursday.

Allen believes the board should starting planning now for the possible fiscal cliff and trim the agency's current spending as much as they can.

"We've got to have a 'Plan B' and there still isn't one," Allen said.

Not everyone shares Allen's viewpoint though.

MORE: BART may need tax dollars to keep running as pandemic funding is drying up

As money is starting to dry out, BART is looking for new ways to find funding.

Bevan Dufty is the BART board president.

He says he's proud of the budget the board passed Thursday.

"We've been tightening our belt for a while now, you know, the past couple of years. We balanced our budget through state and federal support," Dufty said.

Dufty says he worries if BART starts cutting services now, it could create a so-called death spiral and harm the agency even more in the long run.

He tells me the BART board has been working closely with state and federal lawmakers ahead of the impending fiscal cliff.

Dufty says he supports efforts by people like State Senator Scott Wiener who want to fund the transit agency through increased taxes and fees.

MORE: BART data shows arrests are up but so is crime despite more officers riding trains

Wiener hopes to put a measure before voters in 2026.

"They recognize that if we start willy nilly cutting things, furloughing people, laying people off, that that is going to deeply impact our ability to draw people back into the system," Dufty said.

Dufty says BART's biggest problem remains its lack of ridership.

As of May, it's still only at 43 percent of pre-pandemic levels- a number impacted by the rise of remote and hybrid work following COVID.

And while Dufty hopes more people will return to the office full time, Allen thinks that's just not realistic.

"No one predicts that is going to happen. All predictions are that there will be really just nominal amounts of growth over time," Allen said.

Even if voters were to approve a tax measure, new funding likely wouldn't come until 2028.

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