The Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board of Directors has adopted a $1.2 billion budget for 2021. The largest part is a $629 million operating plan, down 14% from this year.
The budget includes up to $140 million in spending cuts from original projections due to the pandemic. Nearly 400 employees will be subject to layoffs and more than 300 vacant positions will be eliminated at the agency, which provides light rail, commuter rail and bus transportation.
Service will remain at about 60% of pre-pandemic levels.
The Board has “consistently decided in recent months to choose conservative budget projections and move ahead with cuts,” RTD reported, even though the agency’s financial staff has said revenues could “change significantly depending on what happens with COVID-19, ridership confidence and potential new rounds of federal aid.”
The budget cuts will also include furloughs and wage reductions for some employees remaining at RTD. Those earning more than $120,000 will see a 3.5% pay cut for 2021, and those making more than $180,000 will lose 7.5% of their pay.
Concerning layoffs: Some union-represented employees will be notified in December, “so they don’t vote on work for the January service change.” Other staff members will be notified in early January. All separations will take effect in January, according to RTD.
The agency said it was able to reduce the number of positions lost from more than 600, “after revenue projections improved and other savings were found.” The unfilled positions also include a combination of represented employees and administrative staff.
RTD reported that the 2021 budget does not remove funds from the FasTracks savings accounts, which are “meant to accumulate capital spending for future rail and bus transit projects.”
At the Board meeting this week, members also discussed a letter to RTD from Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, “asking the agency to delay any layoffs until there is more clarity from Washington, D.C., about the chances for a new round of federal pandemic-stimulus spending under a new presidential administration,” according to RTD.
The Board noted: “There is little certainty about Congress and a President-elect Joe Biden Administration agreeing on a new federal aid plan to cities and transit agencies. Any agreement might not come for months, well into the 2021 budget year.”
The Board also addressed Polis’ statement that “aid from the 2020 CARES Act might have helped RTD avoid new layoffs.” The Board said the CARES Act funding of “$232 million helped weather a massive budget hole in 2020, saved hundreds of jobs for months and preserved transit for essential workers, but it was required to be spent in 2020.”