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Fiscal emergency at Caltrain

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  • 2/28 San Mateo Journal
    Published Monday, February 28, 2005, in the San Mateo Daily Journal Fiscal emergency By Dana Yates Daily Journal Staff Years of state and local budget problems
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2005
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      Published Monday, February 28, 2005, in the San Mateo Daily Journal

      Fiscal emergency

      By Dana Yates Daily Journal Staff

      Years of state and local budget problems are taking a toll on
      Caltrain, which plans to declare a fiscal emergency next month.

      For the first time, the Caltrain board of directors will vote this
      week to hold a public meeting about declaring an emergency, which
      could lead to fair increases and cuts to services, said Caltrain
      spokeswoman Jayme Maltbie Kunz.

      "Declaring a fiscal emergency puts up a red flag to the state
      Legislature," said Maltbie Kunz.

      The estimated $11 million deficit is caused in part by the state
      siphoning money from Proposition 42 funds, which required gas-tax
      revenue be spent on transportation. Caltrain is also spending more
      money than it's receiving because the three counties served by the
      rail system -- San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara -- have frozen
      their contributions for the past four years to save their own budgets
      while costs of running trains has increased, Maltbie Kunz said.

      In the past, Caltrain relied on its reserves to balance the budget.
      However, this year there is only $1.4 million in reserves. Before
      balancing the budget last year, the reserves were $9.8 million,
      Maltbie Kunz said.

      The Caltrain Board of Directors will meet Thursday to discuss the
      problem and arrange for a public hearing at its April 7 meeting.

      "It's frustrating. Our numbers are rising, people are starting to go
      back to work, but it's no time to start cutting services," said Mike
      Nevin, chair of the Caltrain board of directors.

      The budget will have to be approved by June, but officials aren't
      ready to talk specifics.

      "Everything is on the table. What we have to do is run the
      scenarios," Maltbie Kunz said.

      Part of the running the scenarios means seeing what riders will be
      willing to deal with. With few other commute options to turn to,
      riders say their willing to deal with cuts and pay a little extra to
      stay out of their cars.

      "You expect the fees to rise. I don't care if they would cut
      something in the middle of the day, but I don't think they should cut
      it for people getting to work in the mornings," said Carol Meredith, a
      San Jose resident who commutes to San Mateo everyday.

      Meredith said she would be willing to pay an extra $5 a month in fair
      increases.

      Caltrain hasn't raised fairs since 2002, but has made service cuts in
      the last few years.

      "Sounds kind of like normal," said Joe Mees of Daly City of the
      proposed cuts. "I suppose I'd do it without grumbling."

      Mees commutes to San Mateo three times a week and his wife takes the
      train to Atherton. The couple is only riding Caltrain until Bay Area
      Rapid Transit makes its way south, he said. [BATN's visionaries, for
      their part, are only riding bicyles until personal gyrocopters powered
      by room temperature fusion arrive on the scene.]


      Dana Yates can be reached at dana@... or (650) 344-5200 x106.
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