With a unanimous vote during its monthly meeting Sept. 24, the board of directors for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County has approved a $1.15 billion fiscal year 2020-21 budget.
However, that budget is down compared to the year before, when the board approved a $1.33 billion budget, according to documents presented to the board’s finance and audit committee Sept. 16.
Overall, the approved budget is down nearly 14% from last year, the biggest drop coming to the transit authority’s capital budget, which sees a nearly 48% drop from last year, at $172 million compared to $330.5 million.
“Because of the anticipated reductions in revenue due to the economic downturn resulting from COVID-19, METRO is re-prioritizing capital projects and balancing its core business needs with service expansion and enhancements,” an executive summary for the budget reads.
The approved budget comes as METRO has experienced significant declines in ridership since the coronavirus pandemic came to the Greater Houston area.
With a decline in ridership comes a reduction in revenue collected from fares, and the transit authority has reported year-to-date fare revenue at $35 million, nearly 44% under what was budgeted for FY 2019-20.
As a result, revenue in the approved FY 2020-21 budget is nearly $761 million, a 23.3% decrease compared to FY 2019-20.
“This forecast is fiscally conservative and is mainly driven by decreases in bond proceeds as well as decreases in projected sales tax revenues and fares resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” the executive summary reads.