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A Tale of Two Budgets

Budget jargon can be confusing -- PSTA breaks it down for you

Ah, budgets. Every person, company, and government agency has as least one, and sometimes they can be complex and confusing. Hopefully we can break ours down here for you a little bit.

We have two budgets here at PSTA: operating and capital. Generally speaking, it can be said that “operating” dollars buy the every day things we need to run service and “capital” dollars buy big special things.

Operating Budget = Everyday Running of PSTA

The Operating budget pays for transit passenger services (both bus and DART) and includes things like labor costs (payroll, benefits, etc), fuel, insurance, supplies, and utilities. We get some funding from the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) for the operation of certain bus routes (like the express routes to Tampa, and the new Connector services coming to northern Pinellas in December), but most of the money for operating expenses comes from property taxes and farebox revenues.

Capital Budget = Purchase of Equipment

Money for the Capital budget comes from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) after Congress completes their annual appropriation for transit programs. Capital funding can be used for the purchase of equipment (buses, shelters, computers, etc.) and preventive maintenance (parts, labor, and services that extend the useful life of equipment and facilities).

Why They Are Not Interchangeable

We are often asked questions like “why can you buy buses but you can’t make my bus come every 15 minutes.” The reason comes down to funding sources and their various requirements and limitations. As operating budgets get tighter, many transit properties are making dramatic cuts in service. Many agencies are trying to get the Federal Government to allow capital dollars to be spent on operating costs. Basically this would allow us to buy the buses, and use the same bank of funds to pay the drivers to drive them. We’re hopeful that will happen some day, but until it does, we must follow the rules of the FTA, or we risk of losing capital funding altogether.

The New Budget Year

PSTA’s new total annual budget is $119 million and will run from October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013 – a period of time that we refer to as Fiscal Year 2012/13 or FY2013.

Of that figure, this year’s Operating budget is around $60.5 million. This is the day-to-day cost of running the transit system – labor, fuel, supplies, utilities, etc. On the Capital budget we’re planning to spend about $34 million – this includes things like replacement buses, tire lease (yes, it’s more affordable for us to lease rather than buy tires!), computer hardware and software, bus shelters, and some preventative maintenance.

If you’d like to learn more detail about PSTA’s budget on your own, I invite you to visit PSTA.net and read through the FY2013 Budget Draft. The final budget (which was adopted by the Board on 9/12/12) will be posted within the next couple of weeks; you’ll be able to find it under the About Tab, Plans and Reports, Financial Documents.

Questions? I’ll be glad to answer those I can, and find answers for those I don’t!

~Cyndi Raskin-Schmitt, RidePSTA Blog Editor

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Red October 10, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Nice effort! Most folks really just want to know - -- --- in language they can understand. Ridership is going up. That said, my wife and myself both drive, but when we moved back to St. Pete. being a block away from a bus stop was indeed a factor when we chose to buy a house . Bicycle to the grocery store one way and walk a block to the bus stop the other. With insurance, cars, fuel. all up that bus starts looking better and better.
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