Western Washington University students and other people who regularly ride Whatcom Transportation Authority buses can expect their fares to stay the same throughout the next fiscal year, thanks to a proposed 2014 budget passed at the WTA regular board meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17.
WTA Director of Finance Pat Dunn gave a presentation to board members outlining and explaining the budget in detail.
The budget was written on the assumption that sales tax will increase by 3 percent in 2014, but fare revenue will remain at 2013 levels, Dunn said.
Fare increases will likely be considered in 2015 or 2016, Dunn said.
The complete budget includes a $3.7 million plan to continue 2013 projects, which include updating web and mobile access to schedules for bus riders on the go and replacing outdated fare-collection hardware.
Projects for 2014 were budgeted at nearly $1.1 million, which includes significantly updating vanpools with three new vans and installing GPS units in each van in the fleet.
Members of the WTA staff can also expect to see an increase in wages in 2014, with most employees receiving a 2.25 percent boost. Jobs will also open up, with 20 vacancies expected in the coming year.
WTA general manager, Richard Walsh said the agency is continuing to grow financially stronger following the difficulties of the recession.
“It was our hope that we could - over time - take that back to becoming more common and long-term sustainable, and we’re pretty much there right now,” Walsh said. “The staff, and certainly the sales tax increases, has been very beneficial.”
The expected increase of sales tax is important to planning the budget and funding transportation programs, Dunn explained.
Sales tax brings in about $20 million in revenue, or about 80 percent of the WTA’s total revenue, Dunn said.
Dunn summarized the budget as showing the growing financial strength of WTA. WTA has not gone over budget “in remembered history,” he said.
The WTA board of directors meets next on local transportation matters Thursday, Nov. 21.