Metro’s fiscal 2013 budget includes plans for fare hike

By Mike Anthony

As reported on the Call’s website at

, the Metro Board of Commissioners last week approved an operating budget for Metro Transit, Business Enterprises and Executive Services of $262.5 million for fiscal 2013, which includes plans to move forward with a fare increase for transit postponed from 2010.

Really? Metro officials plan to move forward with a fare increase?

What’s wrong with this picture?

This is the same agency for which voters approved a half-cent sales-tax increase in April 2010. At the time, the sales-tax increase was projected to generate roughly $75 million annually for Metro.

Additionally, the passage of the sales-tax increase, called Proposition A, triggered a quarter-cent sales tax in St. Louis city, which voters approved in 1997 but was contingent upon passage of a sales-tax increase in the county.

At the time, that quarter-cent sales tax was projected to generate roughly $8 million annually in additional revenue for Metro from the city.

So, even with an additional revenue stream of roughly $83 million annually, Metro is looking to increase fares for fiscal 2013? Unbelievable.

But wait, it gets even better as “Metro’s long-range plan requires 5-percent fare increases every other year.”

That leads to the question: Why can’t Metro live within its means?

Consider what the draft of the approved fiscal 2013 budget states: “Wages and benefits budgeted for 2013 are expected to be 4.2-percent higher than (the) FY 2012 projection. This increase is primarily due to budgeting at full staffing and higher medical and pension benefits.”

Metro continues to sponsor four defined-benefit pension plans. It’s interesting to note that some governmental entities and many private employers are moving toward offering defined-contribution plans because they have found the increasing cost of defined-benefit pension plans to be unsustainable.

Perhaps the primary problem with the Metro board is its inherent lack of accountability with those who foot the bill — taxpayers. Missouri members are appointed by the governor while Illinois members are appointed by the chairman of the board for both St. Clair and Madison counties.

As such, no mechanism exists for taxpayers to hold them accountable or remove them from office.

So, once again, why can’t Metro live within its means? The answer is simple: It doesn’t have to.