SANTA BARBARA - The Santa Barbara-based Metropolitan Transit District that provides public bus service to all of southern Santa Barbara County is staring the possibility of cutting routes and laying off dozens of drivers and staff by the end of the year.
"Our workforce is over 200 union and non-union employees", says MTD Assistant General Manager Jerry Estrada about possible layoffs, "we're looking at a 30 percent cut so you could probably get a range from anywhere from 50 to 60 employees."
MTD is one of several transit agencies in California that rely on millions of dollars in federal funds every year to keep busses rolling and service running at maximum levels.
But a new California state law that requires public employees, in this case public transit bus drivers and staff, to make greater contributions to their pension plans has the Teamsters Union crying foul.
The union, which represents the MTD bus drivers and some staff, says member pension reform must be agreed to through a collective bargaining process.
Federal law prevents the release of federal funds to transit agencies found to be in violation of collective bargaining agreements.
"The United States Department of Labor will not determine, to my understanding, has not determined that California's Public Employee Pension Reform Act violates that law", Estrada tells Central Coast News, "yet, they are still assessing things and that's what's frustrating for the rest of us because we don't know even know if there is a violation, but our money is being held up for months."
Estrada says about eight million people ride MTD busses every year between Goleta, UCSB, Isla Vista, Santa Barbara, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria.
He says service cuts and layoffs will happen by the end of the year if the MTD does not receive several million dollars in federal funds currently being held back.