Metro Tackles Huge Budget Gap...By Getting Rid Of Some Office Printers?

metro budget.jpg
Metro promises to maintain service levels despite cutting its budget by 31 percent.
At a Metro board meeting this morning, Metro's president and CEO, George Greanias, gave his first formal presentation about what's in store for the agency's 2011 budget, which should be drafted and complete by the end of this month.

It wasn't much different than what Greanias reported to the City Council yesterday, and he said again that Metro plans to maintain current service levels despite dropping its budget by about $430 million.

To pull off such a feat, Metro plans to remove no less than 160 printers from Metro's downtown headquarters.

Just one example, as Greanias put it, of how Metro is "scrubbing every expense."

We suppose there was more, because Greanias also talked about non-union Metro employees burdened with higher health care costs. Thirty-three percent higher, in fact, and on the most popular health care package, Greanias said, premiums are shooting up 80 percent.

That's got to leave some unhappy bus drivers, and it really doesn't sit well  with us either, especially considering Frank Wilson, the man who left Metro in such a mess, is still getting paid.

And if Metro gets its $900 million in federal funding, which Wilson may have effed up with the Federal Transit Administration, Wilson will get paid even more.

For an illustration of how wrong that is, you don't have to look past Wilson's handling of Metro's General Mobility Fund, which reserves sales tax money for Houston and surrounding areas to make improvements to things like roads and bridges.

But Wilson's Metro didn't save that cash, instead opting to basically take out loans to make those payments. We're not sure if that's a Ponzi or a pyramid or outright fraud, but regardless, the new Metro is on the hook for $167 million.

"There's currently no plan to repay [the $167 million]," Greanias said, adding that he's planning to develop one in the next six months.

Times are tough at Metro, but just about everyone, even the strongest Metro critics, seems to think Greanias is the man for the job and has Metro headed in the right direction.

So it has to be good news that the Metro board has awarded Greanias with a contract to serve as the agency's permanent president and CEO. (You can check out his contract on Metro's Web site.)

Gilbert Garcia, the board's chairman, said of the contract: "There are no parachutes. There are no guarantees."

That was a reference to Frank Wilson's gawdawful contract, and Garcia added that Greanias isn't even the highest paid person at Metro.

Greanias, perhaps referencing those high paid execs who were present during the Wilson years, said, "There will continue to be departures."


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