Muni work orders drive debate 

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s more than $60 million bill for services provided by other departments is expected to come under close scrutiny this week amid criticism about how it’s closing a budget deficit.

The transit agency, which oversees Muni, plans to implement 10 percent service cuts in May after having increased the cost of riding the system.

This week, the city controller is expected to release a report detailing the agency’s work-order spending during the current fiscal year and the previous one. Work orders are services provided by other departments. The SFMTA’s work-order budget pays for things like police, the 311 call center, electricity and information and technology. 

As the cash-strapped agency has struggled to close its deficit without impacting riders, members of the Board of Supervisors have criticized the work-order spending. Those costs dramatically increased in fiscal year 2008-09, when departments were facing budget cuts and voters approved a measure resulting in more city money for Muni.

The spending has supervisors calling into question the work orders, including if the agency is even receiving services it’s paying for.

SFMTA chief Nathaniel Ford told the Board of Supervisors last week that the transit system’s work-order spending is decreasing during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Ford said the current $69 million work-order budget will decrease to about $62 million.

“We have yet to negotiate and work those out with those specific departments,” Ford said. “We just did that as a unilateral cut on the top-line budget amount, and now we will work with individual departments to try and realize that 10 percent savings.

“We were at $80 million a couple of years ago, and we were scheduled to go even higher.”

Supervisor David Campos said even the reduced amount doesn’t seem appropriate.

“I don’t think $62 million is in the ballpark,” Campos said.

The city controller’s report is expected to frame the debate about what the proper figure should be. 

The SFMTA board of directors must finalize a budget by May 1. The Board of Supervisors can then review it and negotiate with the agency amid a threat of a budget rejection.


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