CNS–Faced with looming state budget cuts, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors implemented a hiring freeze last Thursday. Current state budget cuts will create a $136.3 million deficit in Metro's 2008-09 budget, according to the agency, and more cuts are expected. At the recommendation of two Metro board members, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, the panel decided to immediately freeze the hiring of new employees and contractors, except those working on projects funded by Measure R and those needed for operation, maintenance or safety purposes.
The goal of the hiring freeze is to address the budget deficit without incurring service cuts, said Metro spokesman Marc Littman.
"We have to tighten our belts," he said.
Despite the cash crunch, the Metro board plans–"if possible"– to avoid using Measure R funds to plug the agency's structural deficit, Littman said. Measure R is the voter-approved half-cent sales tax increase that will generate an estimated $40 billion over the next 30 years for transit projects. At Villaraigosa's recommendation, the board directed Metro's chief executive officer, Roger Snoble, to come up with a plan on how to use allocated Measure R funds to improve bus operations.