State funding won’t prevent Muni’s planned cutbacks 

Muni passengers will have to contend with longer wait times and more-crowded trains despite the agency receiving tens of millions of dollars in state funding to help close the budget gap.

Nathaniel Ford, head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, told members of the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday to expect 10 percent service cuts May 1, even though the board had wanted to see cuts rolled back with the unexpected good news of state funding.

Ford said the $36 million in state funding will instead help close next fiscal year’s $84 million budget deficit.

That deficit will be closed with the state funding, $28.8 million in savings from the 10 percent service cuts and a combination of revenue increases and spending cuts, Ford said during Wednesday’s  off-site Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee meeting at Horace Mann Middle School.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu questioned  the 10 percent cuts. He said no one on the board supports them and he remained “challenged to understand” why cuts were going into effect now that the agency is receiving the state dollars.

Ford said the SFMTA board if directors will see a proposed budget Tuesday that has no additional service cuts and no additional fare increases. “It will be a smaller system, but it will be a well-maintained and better-managed system,” he said.

He reported the “good news” was that in the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2011, there’s a projected surplus of $14 million, with help from an expected $31 million from the state. The surplus, he said, would allow the agency to add back 5 percent of the 10 percent service cuts implemented May 1.

The agency’s budget, however, is far from finalized. The SFMTA board of directors will ultimately submit to the Board of Supervisors on May 1 a balanced budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The Board of Supervisors can reject the budget, which would prompt the SFMTA to enter negotiations with members of the board.

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