Transit Authority to Eliminate 39 Staff Posts Through Layoffs, Attrition : Transportation: At $624.3 million, the OCTA tentative budget for fiscal 1994 is $70 million less than this year. Freeway projects represent $385 million of the proposal.

TIMES URBAN AFFAIRS WRITER

The Orange County Transportation Authority Monday proposed trimming 39 staff jobs, through layoffs and attrition, as part of a proposed $624.3 million budget for the 1994 fiscal year.

The spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is down nearly $70 million from the fiscal 1993 budget of $693.7 million.

The proposed budget, due to be adopted next month, earmarks more than $385 million for freeway projects. The plans include the extension of Orange Freeway car-pool lanes from Lambert Road to the Los Angeles County line, construction of a partly elevated "transitway" reserved for car-pools and buses on the Santa Ana Freeway and installation of car-pool lanes on the Riverside Freeway.

Of the $396.3 million for capital projects listed in the proposed fiscal 1994 budget, more than $372 million will come from Measure M, the half-cent, countywide sales tax for traffic improvements approved by voters in November, 1990.

Most of the job cuts will come from the agency's administrative ranks, although a few bus drivers are included, OCTA officials said. The cuts in the approximately 1,700-member work force will be split evenly between layoffs and attrition. Among those to go will be OCTA Property Manager Craig Shelby.

"I'm angry--very much so," said Shelby, 41. "They gave me a memo six months ago saying they weren't going to fund this position after June 30, but the memo also said they might change their mind. I've been hanging fire all this time. It's been impossible to find another job."

OCTA also expects to offer an early retirement incentive package to about 50 people. Details of the offer are still under review. "We're strengthening the agency and the way we do business," said OCTA Chief Executive Officer Stan Oftelie.

OCTA was created two years ago through the merger of the county's transit district and transportation commission. A total of 161 jobs have been eliminated, saving an estimated $13 million a year, said James Kenan, OCTA's chief financial officer. The merger has saved a total of about $20 million, Kenan said.

Kenan cautioned OCTA board members, however, that the decline in spending between the 1993 and 1994 fiscal years is "misleading," because 1993 included many new projects started with the proceeds of a $540-million Measure M bond sale. Although those projects and new ones will continue, there won't be as many new contracts signed in 1994, he said.

Kenan also warned that in 1996, the agency faces a deficit, partly because the large number of new projects will be draining available resources.

An anticipated 4% increase in revenue from the Measure M sales tax next year, as the economy recovers, and more in the following years won't be enough to make up the shortfall, Kenan said. A task force is considering delays in some projects.

"We've been very aggressive in starting as many Measure M projects as fast as we can," Oftelie said. "We still intend to be aggressive, but we expect some adjustments. We will still deliver everything we've promised the voters."

Among the projects promised is traffic signal coordination, which a recent public opinion survey showed to be supported by nearly 90% of the Orange County voters. An OCTA study released last week showed some cities are unable to coordinate their traffic computers across city lines because of lack of cooperation among equipment suppliers.

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