Pandemic Playing Havoc With RTA Budget

The COVID-19 and its accompanying economic recession has blown holes into the finances of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority.

The agency’s Operational Planning and Infrastructure Committee heard a report this week that revenues from fares and sales taxes are expected to be down 19 percent during fiscal year 2021.

RTA staff projects that sales tax revenue will fall by nearly 10 percent this year while fare revenue will be down 45 compared with 2019.

GCRTA Office of Budget and Management Director Kay Sutula said $112 million in federal CARES Act funding will help the agency offset some of the revenue losses and increased costs triggered by the pandemic.

But the budget outlook will be tough through 2022 with RTA operating at a loss every year during that period.

“As the economy slowly opened and the stay-at-home order was lifted, ridership has slowly increased over the last several months, but still remains near 50 percent below average from pre-COVID levels,” Sutula said.

Sutula said RTA expects modest growth in ridership and tax revenue next year with fare revenue expected to rise by about 29 percent to $30.5 million.

Sales tax revenue is projected to increase by less than 1 percent in 2021 and by about 5 percent in 2022.

Sales and use tax account for about 83 percent of the proposed GCRTA budget while passenger fare revenue provides about 13 percent.

About $20 million earmarked for preventative maintenance will be redirected to other capital projects over the next two fiscal years.

The proposed budget will go before the full GCRTA board on July 28.

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