MTA to Lay Off 117 to Help Offset Deficit

Times Staff Writer

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will begin laying off 117 employees later this month to help overcome a projected $300-million budget deficit.

The layoffs are part of a plan announced in March to eliminate 269 positions and scale back some projects to trim $100 million from a massive operating and capital shortfall forecast for the fiscal year beginning in July.

An internal memo issued last Friday said 117 employees will lose their jobs, most of them union workers in the operations unit, including service attendants and clerks. MTA officials began the process of notifying those affected on Monday.

Thirty-seven administrative employees will be let go, including several from the agency's planning and programming unit, which maps out the MTA's transit projects throughout Los Angeles County. The rest of the 269 total positions eliminated have remained vacant since a hiring freeze was imposed at the beginning of the year.

Franklin E. White, chief executive officer of the MTA, said the cuts are necessary for the agency to balance its $3.4-billion budget. He added that bus and rail service wil not be disrupted and that the agency should still be able to do long-term planning despite its smaller work force.

"We're just going to have to ask more from our people at this time," he said. "However difficult this s, internal efficiencies are a must in terms of bridging this shortfall."

All layoffs should be complete by the end of June, in time for the start of the fiscal year. The personnel cuts will involve an initial outlay of cash-non unionized employees can receive up to six months' salary as severance pay-but the reductions should ultimately help the MTA save $25 million in its operation budget and $75 million in capital funds.

This is the second round of job cuts at the MTA since the super-agency was created last year through the merger of the Southern California Rapid Transit District and the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. Last October, 246 positions, mostly administrative, were slashed from the MTA's 9,100-person staff, although no layoffs were required because of a voluntary buyout offer.

Financial woes have also pushed the agency to consider raising bus fares and cutting back bus service-which accounts for 90% of the operating budget-for the first time in five years. Despite complaints from passengers and some officeholders that those most dependent on public transportation would be hit hardest, officials say that some combination of fare increases and service reductions is inevitable.

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