As some of you readers have noted, the CTA has not yet submitted its budget for 2013. The agency board meets tomorrow, and the 2013 budget is not on the agenda, though the budget recommendations may still be released.
It’s unprecedented for the CTA to wait this long to present its budget. Last year, President Forrest Claypool outlined the budget at its October meeting, and the board approved it in November. There were public hearings in early November. So the schedule for approval will be more compressed this year.
As you may recall, there were no fare hikes or service cuts in that 2012 budget proposal. But there was a $160 million funding gap that Claypool said at the time would be closed with savings earned through negotiating new work rules with various unions.
As it turned out, the CTA didn’t have that big of a budget hole, and was able to plug it this year with lower costs on fuel and materials, more revenue from increased ridership and some more bucks from the Regional Transportation Authority.
And there were no fare increases this year. However, some bus service is set to be cut on Dec. 16, and service will be added to train lines and some buses. But that was all budget neutral.
So what will happen with the budget next year?
I’m not much of a betting man, but here’s my simple prediction:
- No fare hikes.
- No service cuts.
CTA will rely on more revenue from:
- Increased ridership
- A better economy (more sales tax and property transfer tax dollars).
- Deals it made this year with savings that will be realized over a full year.
- Union work rule changes, such as with the iron workers union and 12 trades unions.
And that doesn’t include added bucks it stands to save on work rule changes for its biggest unions – for the bus and rail operators.
We will know soon enough whether my crystal ball is cloudy or clear.