HART staff says it can balance the budget — but with little to spare

Despite looking at a $1.2 million deficit, increased ridership and flat revenues, the chief financial officer for HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) says he's found a way to balance the budget for the the next fiscal year, and that the agency should be okay the next four years after that.

Transit agencies like HART and PSTA in Pinellas County have been facing severe challenges in recent years. Their chief source of revenue — property taxes — has been reduced for five consecutive years, while demand for their services is at an all-time high.

CFO Jeffery Seward says HART will balance its budget partly from increased fares, which will rise to $2 from the current $1.75 rate. It also eliminate a route, combine other routes, and reduce the levels of service on certain holidays. The agency will also reduce specific expenses, and use some of those savings to meet increased service demand on other routes.

And the transit agency plans to do this without dipping into its reserve fund.

However, there are strains with the workforce that were acknowledged by both management and labor at Monday morning's workshop.