CA: Muni Gets Earful Over OT, Budget

San Francisco supervisors chastised senior Muni officials Thursday over the chronic budget shortfall that has led to service cuts, fare hikes and increases to parking fines and fees in recent years.

The chief problem, said Supervisor David Campos, who held a pair of City Hall hearings tied to Muni finances, is "a crisis of management" at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

The focus was on work orders - payments that Muni makes to other city departments - and overtime, both of which account for large chunks of the transportation agency's $781 million annual budget.

Work orders add up to $62 million to pay for such things as legal services from the city attorney's office, e-mail account management by the Department of Technology and Information Services and traffic control by the Police Department's motorcycle cops.

What most concerns Campos, he said, is the lack of clear service standards in most of the work orders to know if Muni is getting everything it's paying for, and whether Muni is the appropriate agency to be footing the bill for such things as the police traffic unit.

The agency, meanwhile, is considering raising transit fares and parking fines and fees to close project deficits amounting to tens of millions of dollars.

"I think that before we go down that road of actually charging ... the consumers more to use the system," Campos said, "we really need to get a better handle on whether or not the money we do have is bring spent well."

Supervisors have been critical of work orders for the past few years, resulting in more oversight of the agreements but not to the degree that Campos and colleagues have demanded.

On the overtime front, Muni budgeted $32 million for overtime this year but is on pace to spend closer to $57 million, largely to make sure there's enough staffing to keep the buses, streetcars and cable cars maintained and running.

"We need to reverse the downward spiral," Board of Supervisors President David Chiusaid.

Debra Johnson, the Municipal Transportation Agency's director of administration, and Sonali Bose, the chief financial officer, presented plans on how the agency plans to improve the work-order process and curb overtime.

The supervisors said they will keep a close eye on what changes are made under the new leadership of Ed Reiskin, San Francisco's former public works chief who became San Francisco's director of transportation in July.

Campos told City Insider that he wants to give Muni under Reiskin's leadership a bit more time to address overtime and work-order concerns, but that he also wouldn't hesitate to force change by going to the ballot next fall.

- Rachel Gordon

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