Tax revenue boost could stall planned Pierce Transit service cuts, layoffs

Pierce Transit announced Thursday its board of commissioners will decide later this month whether to rescind planned service reductions following news of higher-than-expected sales tax growth.

Citing information compiled by the Washington State Department of Revenue, officials say sales tax collections are averaging about $5.1 million per month for the first four months of 2013. If collections continue at this rate, Pierce Transit’s sales tax revenue would show 11 per cent growth for the current budget cycle.

The region’s sales tax growth may mean good news for Pierce Transit customers and employees who were bracing for service reductions and another round of layoffs on September 29.

Earlier this year, the board approved a service rescission that included a 28 per cent reduction in service hours planned to take effect in September. The board approved the September service reduction plan after voters rejected by 704 votes a sales tax measure that would have increased Pierce Transit’s taxing authority from .06 of one percent to .09 of one percent. Pierce Transit reduced its operating and capital budget by $136 million, and reduced its annual service hours from 617,000 hours in 2008 to 399,000 in June of this year due to the failure of both the February 2011 and the November 2012 ballot measures. The September service reduction would have reduced the annual service hours to 300,000 hours and affected nearly every route in the system.

Pierce Transit’s Board of Commissioners will decide whether the four-month growth rate is sufficient justification for formally rescinding the service reduction plan during a public meeting on Weds., July 31 at 4 p.m. at Pierce Transit’s Training Center, Building 5, 3720 96th Street SW, in Lakewood. During the meeting, boardmembers will consider whether staff layoffs related to the operation of service at current levels of 399,000 hours (down from 417,000 due to operator attrition) should be rescinded and some formerly laid off employees should be recalled.

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