Pierce Transit will cut six manager jobs next year and eliminate pay raises and reduce other benefits for 140 employees not represented by a union – moves that will trim another $1.2 million from its books as the transit agency continues trying to close a big budget gap.
The action, announced Wednesday, comes on the heels of transit officials’ recently publicized plans to increase bus fares beginning Nov. 1. “We’ve still got a long road ahead of us,” Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith said Thursday. “We’re going to have to find even more ways to close the gap.”
Before this week’s actions by staff members, Pierce Transit – facing dire projections for its capital and operations budgets amid the dour economy – already had made more than $72 million in cuts since 2008.
In July, the board of commissioners directed staff members to identify more cuts that could be made without affecting services. That would buy the agency time until voters decide in February 2011 whether to approve a tax subsidy for transit service. Officials hope voters agree to a 50 percent increase in sales tax, raising it from 0.6 to 0.9 cent on the dollar.
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Agency officials have said that without fare increases and voter approval of a tax hike, severe service cuts will be needed.
“We know we’ve got big changes coming,” Griffith said. “We’ve got an election, and after that we’ll know what path we’re going to need to take.”
SIX MANAGERS GONE
The moves made this week eliminate five managers’ positions and one vacant manager position, what amounts to an 11 percent reduction in managerial staff for a savings of $470,000 through 2011, Griffith said. The jobs were identified as providing duplicative work or within programs that will be consolidated, Griffith said.
In addition, Pierce Transit will cut cost-of-living adjustments and step wage increases to 140 non-unionized workers, shift more health and dental benefits costs to employees and suspend contributions to employee deferred-compensation accounts.
Those cuts, however, will not apply to the bulk of Pierce Transit’s work force. Some 845 transit union members won a contract that calls for a 4 percent hike this summer. Agency officials wanted to renegotiate; union leaders refused, saying their members earned their wages and benefits – and suggested there are other places to cut.
“We’ve asked (to renegotiate) twice, and they’ve said no twice,” said agency spokeswoman Treva Percival. “ Their contract is up again next year. Negotiations will probably start in the spring.”
In all, the newest cuts to benefits and wage programs will save more than $700,000.
With projections that stagnant revenues won’t rebound until 2015, Griffith said the agency must make $64 million in additional cuts by the end of 2012.
“After that, we’re non-sustainable,” she said. “We’ll either have to reduce the system or find new revenue sources.”
As part of the ongoing budget process, officials for the transit agency said last week they’re examining a proposal to increase cash bus fares and adult monthly passes by 14 percent this fall.
Pierce Transit served 15.5 million passengers in 2009.