Metro spends more on contractors, less on work done by employees

WASHINGTON — Contractors are getting the bulk of Metro’s capital spending this fiscal year.

Nearly 68 percent of Metro’s capital spending has been for work done by contractors and other third parties; while about 28 percent of the $874 million spent between July and March has been spent on work done by Metro’s own employees, budget documents show.

Of the money spent on contractors or third parties, $588 million is for construction and equipment expenses ($260 million for new 7000 Series railcars, $328 million for other contracts etc.), $4 million is for materials and supplies and $2 million is for costs tied to Metro’s short-term borrowing.

Metro labors costs total $242 million of its capital spending.

The new information comes after General Manager Paul Wiedefeld raised the possibility of outsourcing even more work under Metro’s separate, operating budget, which could include station managers or other positions at stations on the second phase of the Silver Line due to open in 2020.

The operating budget is much more labor-intensive since Metro needs people to run trains, stations and buses.

The capital budget, thanks in large part to the continued arrival of 20 new railcars each month, is expected to total nearly $1.2 billion for the fiscal year. The Metro Board’s Finance Committee is expected to approve an additional $75 million Thursday to allow the extra spending. The funding would come from $20 million in final sales of Metro properties and through short-term borrowing.

Metro hopes to finalize an agreement with the Federal Transit Administration to get $280 million in older, federal grants that had been withheld due to major issues with Metro finances.

The outlines of the agreement would see that money released by the end of the year so that it can be re-purposed to pay for other projects.

In addition to expected capital projects, such as railcar, bus, station, track and facility projects, Metro has other capital projects underway.

In January, February and March, Metro spent $4.1 million on a new time-tracking system for workers to clock in and clock out.

Since July, Metro has spent $3.3 million on Metro Transit Police Department capital projects.

“The bulk of this investment in the third quarter went toward the procurement of nonlethal weapons, as well as various security upgrades,” according Metro Board documents.

Operating deficit and response

Metro’s separate ongoing operating budget is projected to have an $18 million deficit at the end of the fiscal year on June 30, due largely to sharp declines in ridership.

Metro is also 7.2 percent ($4.3 million) over budget so far this fiscal year on overtime — which the documents say is primarily due to additional work hours for track maintenance, repairs and inspections — and for testing of radio upgrades, signals and alarms.

As part of Metro’s budget, 653 mainly vacant positions were eliminated. Also, there were cutbacks at sales offices and a call center. Forty-seven more positions are due to be cut by July.

Currently, 565 of Metro’s 12,379 positions are vacant, a 4.6 percent rate that is within Metro’s internal standards.

Other cost-savings stem from lower than expected diesel costs, less train power used due to fewer scheduled trains during 24/7 track work, deferred or delayed contracts for debit and credit card processing, and automated fare collection and other changes. The savings are offset by increased costs for MetroAccess paratransit service due to a delay in a program expected to save money and increased credits for riders who face late trips.

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