San Antonio city manager disputes VIA’s budget deficit

Eric Walsh says VIA's deficit is 'manageable'

SAN ANTONIO – VIA Metropolitan Transit’s board of trustees will be discussing the agency’s push for a 1/8th cent sales tax on Tuesday, despite the city manager stating that VIA isn’t in as dire need as it claims to be.

In a memo sent Monday to the mayor and city council, City Manager Eric Walsh wrote, “VIA does not have a projected short-term unrestricted cash deficit.”

Walsh said he requested last week that the city’s chief financial officer review VIA’s projected shortfall in its five-year financial forecast. It found that “after an adjustment to include the City’s current contribution of $10 million annually for increased frequency on eighteen VIA routes, VIA would have a projected modest $10.9 million deficit in FY 2023 increasing to a deficit of $59.4 million in FY 2025. While this forecast is projecting deficits in FY 2023 to FY 2025, these deficits are manageable assuming the necessary management of expenditures, maintaining flexibility and any impact of sales tax recovery during the five-year term.”

Earlier this month, VIA projected a $126 million deficit over the next five years due to the pandemic. It is now projecting roughly a $59 million deficit if the city council approves the $10 million from the General Revenue Fund each year.

“The forecast will change as new numbers become available. This does not negate the validity of our current or previous projections that are based on the information available at the time,” VIA said on Monday.

VIA Statement (VIA Metropolitan Transit)

VIA also said that the city’s contribution would “avoid the most severe service and labor cuts that would be needed otherwise.”

Originally, Mayor Ron Nirenberg had planned to ask voters to redirect the 1/8th cent sales tax toward transportation funding on the November ballot, but that changed once COVID-19 hit San Antonio.

Nirenberg has not specified how the tax might be used instead, but has hinted to using the funds toward economic recovery efforts.

VIA has said it needs the sales tax just to stay afloat. It’s unclear if VIA will still push for the sales tax during Tuesday’s meeting now that it has a lower deficit projection.

About the Author

Brina is the Executive Producer of the NightBeat and KSAT Explains. She has been with KSAT since 2015. She is a Houston native and proud to call San Antonio home.

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