WTA plans to hold fares steady in 2014

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 15, 2013 

WTA BUS

Bellingham Technical College student Tahlissa Tenkley boards a Whatcom Transportation Authority bus from BTC to Cordatta Station on April 27, 2010.

THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

A stable budget this year at Whatcom Transportation Authority has set the table nicely for 2014, and no fare increase is proposed.

Revenue is up, costs are below budget, and WTA's finances haven't looked this good in years, WTA Director of Finance Pat Dunn told the agency's board of directors at their Sept. 19 meeting.

The board will take public testimony on the proposed budget on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Sales tax revenues, which make up almost 80 percent of WTA's total budget, are up 6.5 percent over last year so far. The board's decision a year ago to abandon its financially troubled self-insurance program and sign on with the Association of Washington Cities for health insurance saved WTA more than $1 million.

"Were looking at less risk in 2014 than we've seen in years," Dunn said.

Next year's $25 million budget assumes a 3 percent increase in sales tax receipts. With costs expected to go up while fares remain steady, WTA staff could propose a fare increase for 2015 or 2016, Dunn said.

Route 80X, the popular express from Bellingham to Mount Vernon, will continue to receive state funding through mid-2015.

With the addition of a six-month mechanic intern and full-time positions in technology and finance, the number of full-time-equivalent employees at WTA will reach 223.15 next year.

The agency also will increase its cash reserves next year, according to projections. This marks the agency coming out of a financial hole dug in 2009, when a faltering economy yielded $3.1 million less in sales tax revenue than WTA had anticipated.

ATTEND THE MEETING

What: Whatcom Transportation Authority will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2014 budget

When: 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 17

Where: County Council Chambers, 311 Grand Ave. in Bellingham.

More information: ridewta.com/budget.

Reach Ralph Schwartz at 360-715-2289 or ralph.schwartz@bellinghamherald.com. Read his Politics Blog at bellinghamherald.com/politics-blog or follow him on Twitter at @bhamheraldpolitics.

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