According to comments made Tuesday by its chief Forrest Claypool, the Chicago Transit Authority is on the brink of a $277 million projected budget deficit by 2012.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Claypool pointed to "archaic and expensive work rules, dramatically escalating pension and health care mandates and the highest cost-adjusted rail and bus operator salaries in the nation" as the sources of the agency's budget woes. The CTA's aforementioned costs simply are not sustainable without borrowing funding, which they have done for the last four years.
(Scroll down to watch more of Claypool's comments on the CTA's financial health.)
But even with the $554 million in borrowed money, plus the 2009 fare hike and service cuts and layoffs in 2010, Claypool noted while speaking at a public policy breakfast at the City Club of Chicago that they "can't defer the hard decisions any longer."
While not mentioning what some of those 'hard decisions' specifically are, the writing appears to be on the wall for some combination of more service cuts, fare hikes and employee layoffs.
"The CTA’s cost structure is too high given the revenues and tax receipts we have to operate it," Claypool continued, as reported by NBC 5. "Changes are needed now to shore up the CTA’s fiscal situation."
Claypool also lashed out Tuesday at employees who call in sick to their job, requiring the agency to hire extra workers to make up for their absences, costing the CTA an additional $40 million in 2011, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Later this month, Claypool is expected to release the agency's 2012 proposed budget.
Tuesday's news aside, it hasn't been all gloom and doom for the CTA as of late, as they recently announced $25 million worth of improvements to 100 of the city's rail stations via its Station Renewal Initiative, funded by cutbacks at the agency's main office. The agency also joined the RTA and Metra in trimming its "Seniors Ride Free" program earlier this year to save the agency money.
Photo by vxla via Flickr.
WATCH Claypool address the CTA's 2012 budget:
View more videos at: http://nbcchicago.com.