C-Tran eyes larger budget for 2015-16

Agency sees healthy increase in proposed total revenue

By Eric Florip, Columbian Transportation & Environment Reporter

Published:

 

By the numbers

$111.1 million: Proposed total revenue in C-Tran's 2015-16 budget.

$98.3 million: Total revenue in 2013-14 adopted budget.

$13.2 million: Additional sales tax revenue C-Tran expects to collect in 2015-16, compared to 2013-14 adopted budget.

$9.9 million: Uncommitted funds in 2015-16 budget proposal.

By the numbers

$111.1 million: Proposed total revenue in C-Tran’s 2015-16 budget.

$98.3 million: Total revenue in 2013-14 adopted budget.

$13.2 million: Additional sales tax revenue C-Tran expects to collect in 2015-16, compared to 2013-14 adopted budget.

$9.9 million: Uncommitted funds in 2015-16 budget proposal.

C-Tran expects another healthy revenue increase in its next two-year budget, according to a proposal sent to the agency’s board members late last week.

The boost is driven largely by sales taxes, which account for some three-quarters of C-Tran’s revenue. But unlike the last budget adopted in 2012, which came on the heels of a voter-approved sales tax hike, the growth in this year’s version can be attributed mostly to a growing economy, according to C-Tran. Collections have steadily increased for the past two years, said Chief Financial Officer Diane O’Regan.

“What we’re doing is anticipating that that’s going to continue for the next two years,” she said.

The transit agency expects to collect $83.7 million in total sales tax revenue in 2015 and 2016, or about $13 million more than its adopted budget for 2013 and 2014. C-Tran’s total budget proposal of $111.1 million represents a 13 percent increase from 2013-14, and a 36 percent increase from 2011-12.

C-Tran’s other major revenue sources, passenger fares and grants, were mostly flat.

With higher tax revenues will come higher expenditures, according to the proposal. Among the biggest differences are the planned hiring of 10 more fixed-route bus drivers — five in 2015 and five in 2016 — which will add to salary and benefit costs. C-Tran also will replace dozens of bus shelters during the next two years and take on minor maintenance projects, among other changes.

Larger projects such as C-Tran’s planned bus rapid transit line in Vancouver are included in a separate capital budget, and not reflected in the operating budget. The capital budget would spend $27.8 million in local funds during the next two years. The largest single expenditure, about $6.8 million, will go to BRT, which is expected to begin construction next year.

C-Tran says the new system on Vancouver’s Fourth Plain Corridor will eventually result in a net savings to the agency’s bottom line. Any change will be presented to the C-Tran Board of Directors in the form of a budget amendment, O’Regan said.

Other major capital projects include an expansion of the Fisher’s Landing Transit Center in east Vancouver, vehicle replacements and the development of a new electronic fare system. Many of the projects pair local dollars with state and federal grants.

The 2015-16 operating budget includes $9.9 million in uncommitted dollars, which will add to C-Tran’s overall fund balance. The agency operates debt-free.

C-Tran staff will formally present the proposed 2015-16 budget to board members Tuesday night. The board is expected to approve the new spending plan in December.

Tuesday night’s regular board meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., Vancouver.