SEPTA now expects to deal with deficit in 2013

SEPTA passengers won’t have to worry about fare hikes or service reductions in 2012, but a projected $38 million deficit for 2013 could result in significant changes next year.

According to SEPTA’s financial projections for 2014 through 2018, the agency will face a $38 million budget shortfall in the year starting July 1, 2013. That’s after factoring in a planned fare increase that mirrors inflation, similar to the one in 2010. The shortfall is largely the result of the depletion of SEPTA’s service stabilization fund and higher costs for wages and benefits.

Officials, however, said it is too early to say whether service cuts or a steeper fare hike will be needed.

“We’re a year away from having to start working on that budget,” said Chief Financial Officer Richard Burnfield. “We’re hoping that something happens in Harrisburg also. There’s a lot of that can happen between now and next year when we have to roll out an operating budget.”

SEPTA’s eye on Harrisburg has to do with the possibility of additional funding for the commonwealth’s roads, bridges and public transit. Gov. Tom Corbett has yet to act on recommendations from his Transportation Funding Advisory Commission, which delivered a plan last August to generate $2.5 billion annually for infrastructure and mass transit.

Another issue that could pose problems for SEPTA is that it is still negotiating with four labor unions. While the projections include assumptions for higher wages and benefits, anything outside those assumptions would add further cost.

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