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Facing a $75 million deficit,Facing a $75 million deficit,its workforce may shrink by 12% The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, facing a $75 million deficit, last week announced a proposal to balance its budget for fiscal year 1997. The budget proposal seeks to eliminate the deficit through revenue-generating and cost-cutting initiatives, including reducing SEPTA's administrative and hourly payroll, service restructuring and fare increases by an average of six percent -- which would only mean about 10 cents. The budget proposal was submitted to SEPTA Board Chairperson Thomas Hayward but will not be formally presented to the Board for approval until the conclusion of public hearings. State law requires SEPTA to adopt a balanced budget by June 30. One proposed change would involve discontinuing and altering a number of routes. These would include transit and rail lines which have low-ridership and are more expensive to operate. This decision was based on the service's ability to recover at least 35 percent of its operating costs. The measure would save approximately $35 million. In addition, the proposal recommends reducing the number of management and administrative positions by 680, creating expense savings of an additional $30 million. And 650 hourly positions may be eliminated as well, reducing the total SEPTA work force by 12 percent. The budget plan also suggests raising $10 million through fare increases of approximately six percent. SEPTA General Manager Louis Gambaccini said that it would be impossible to balance the budget without creating hardship for employees, passengers and the community. "Our objective was to minimize inconvenience and financial hardship for our passengers while still being able to provide as safe, efficient and reliable a transit system as possible," he said. "Unfortunately, this balanced budget is yet another example of what 'living within your means' is all about when you are dealing with shrinking resources," Gambaccini added. "But our mandate today is to make do with what we have and that's what we are proposing." In his address to the Philadelphia City Council last month, Gambaccini said he has never witnessed a more threatening financial outlook for public transportation in 44 years. While federal operating subsidies for SEPTA were $24 million in fiscal year 1995, they were reduced to $13 million for fiscal year 1996 and $8 million for fiscal year 1997. According to Gambaccini, the federal government spent $1.91 on highways for every dollar spent on mass transit in 1981. In 1996, the federal government will spend $4.93 for highways for every dollar spent on mass transit. Hearings on the proposals are scheduled to be held in each of the five counties of southeastern Pennsylvania. The hearing in Philadelphia will take place on April 26 at 11:00 a.m., resuming at 5 p.m. after a break, in the SEPTA Board Room, Mezzanine Level, 1234 Market Street.

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