The San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority is potentially looking at laying off 1,000 to 1,200 of its staff in the next fiscal year, which would mean many Muni drivers and maintenance workers losing their jobs starting next summer.
Despite federal stimulus funds and cost-cutting measures over the last year, the lack of daily ridership and ongoing fixes to the Muni Metro system mean that the agency will face a $68 million budget deficit this fiscal year, and a $168 million deficit in the next fiscal year beginning July 2021. As the Examiner reports, that leaves the agency in the position to begin anticipating necessary layoffs of personnel to close the budget gap — particularly with no clear idea when ridership will return to the Muni system.
Calling the situation "far worse" than was even anticipated in the spring, SFMTA chief Jeffrey Tumlin pointed to the lack of a second stimulus package or any federal bailouts for transit as being partly to blame. And he said in a statement to the Examiner that it's especially terrible that the first people to lose their jobs will be the ones who have been front-line workers through the pandemic, and most at risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus.
"It tears me apart to think that now those people are at risk of losing their jobs, and to lose your job in San Francisco in this economy means jeopardizing your ability to pay rent or your mortgage," Tumlin said. "This is unconscionable. That this is even possible in a country like the United States of America baffles me."
The SFMTA has already used $373.8 million in CARES Act funding to help balance the last fiscal year's budget, as well as this year's, but the money is running out by the end of December. The projection is currently that 989 to 1,226 full-time jobs will need to be axed in order to balance the next fiscal year's budget, barring some major outside intervention. That amounts to 18 to 22 percent of the total agency workforce.
Tumlin also mentioned beginning layoffs in the new year, cutting 200 to 500 jobs immediately in order to potentially preserve jobs down the line.
Fare revenue is still down 93 percent for the SFMTA, and service cuts will be in store to go along with the layoffs.
Agency spokeswoman Kristen Holland tells KQED, "We do not expect our revenues to fully return for years to come. Our finances are eroding and require a rapid and immediate response."
As Tumlin tells the Examiner, "The future of Muni absent outside support looks very grim."
San Francisco Transit Workers Union Local 250-A has reportedly been discussing other possible proposals with its members, which include things like unpaid furloughs, in order to avoid layoffs as much as possible.
The president of the union, Roger Marenco, said in a statement to the Examiner that the long-term effects on the city's economy could be significant if our transit infrastructure collapses. "Without public transit operators, nobody goes to work, school, shopping, doctor’s office, church, nothing happens," he says. "That right there is a scary and terrifying domino effect on everybody."