The budget, approved by METRO during its Sept. 22 board meeting, addresses rising operations costs and includes a slew of capital improvements with a 38% hike from last year’s $1.3 billion budget.
“That’s because we’re in the midst of a significant capital improvement program, and it also takes into account inflation issues and doing right by both our union employees and nonunion employees,” board Chair Sanjay Ramabhadran said.
The agency's $570.7 million capital budget increased 106% from the previous year, with a $125.5 million investment in METRONext, $54.7 million for the West Bellfort Park & Ride lot and $21.6 million for new electric buses.
“I think that reflects how important this work is, how incredibly large our city and service area are, and the things that we need to do not only to start moving the ball forward on METRONext but to provide excellence in service to folks throughout Houston and the METRO service area,” Board Member Christopher Hollins said.
The operating budget also saw a nearly 20% increase to $855.2 million due to the effects of inflation on fuel, cost of living and materials, said Phil Brenner, METRO director of management and budget, at a Sept. 15 Finance and Audit Committee meeting.
The agency expects to collect $949 million in sales tax revenue in 2023, up $125 million from last year’s budget.
“Overall the budget was a little bit more challenging this year, but we do think the final outcome is positive because it allows the board to plan for the future,” Board Member Terry Morales said.