HART passes $100 million budget for FY2012

09/27/11 Josh Holton
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Yesterday the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority, or HART, approved a 100 million dollar budget for the next fiscal year. Members of the transit union gave up on demands for a wage increase, as well as a separate step increase. The Board also voted unanimously to raise the millage rate slightly to half a mil.

The HART Board of Directors has been torn between maintaining services, and responding to the local transit union’s demands for higher wages. There was supposed to be a public hearing to consider a one percent pay raise for Amalgamated Transit Union workers. Michael Stephens is the Director of Human Resources Risk and Legal Services for HART, and said the unions quietly reached an agreement with HART management just before the impasse hearing.

HART’s legal counsel Chip Fletcher said that the board will address the issue after the union signs the agreement. Combined with a step increase for union workers, the pay hike would have cost more than 600,000 dollars. During the impasse discussion, County Commissioner and HART board member Kevin Beckner said that changes in health benefits for the union might be equal, but not fair.

Even with unions giving up on higher pay, the transit authority still needed to raise the property taxes on Hillsborough residents to avoid drastically reducing bus services. The average household’s millage rate rose about 41 cents, giving the average homeowner a 45 dollar and 21 cent transit bill each year. County Commissioner Sandra Murman sought compromise, and issued a new motion that would cut the proposed millage increase in half.

Vice Chair Fran Davin shot down Murman’s proposal, decrying the difficulties that eliminating weekend or late night routes would have on working people.

Murman has steadily opposed any budget that would raise the millage rate, but, in a surprising turn of events, she joined the unanimous vote to approve the budget. Had the millage rate increase been rejected, Chief Operating Officer Katharine Eagan said several important jobs and services would be cut.

Less routes would have meant a loss of $473,000 in fare revenues. County Commissioner Mark Sharpe is hoping that even with a tight budget that some money is invested in Bus Rapid Transit; especially since Hillsborough voters and Governor Rick Scott rejected several rail projects last year.

Many members of the public demanded increased, or at least maintained levels of service. Some see the bus as a necessity in people’s work days, while others see it as a way to reduce local air pollution, and get cars off the road. Linda Cummings rides the bus, and saw the passing of the budget as a victory for bus riders.

You can learn more about HART’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2012 here

Previous WMNF News stories about HART

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