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Metro vote on budget slashing postponed

Board looking to close $74M gap

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Action on a series of proposed cuts to Metro's budget was postponed Thursday when a newly appointed member of Maryland's delegation to the board said it needed more time to study the plan.

Alvin Nichols, the Prince George's County representative whose appointment was announced March 7, said his lack of familiarity with proposed cuts in service to help balance the $74.2 million budget gap prevented him from voting on what to put on the docket for future public hearings.

"I won't vote on services that I don't know," Mr. Nichols said.

Mr. Nichols is one of three new Maryland residents appointed to the board, along with Artis Hampshire-Cowan and former Rep. Michael D. Barnes.

Mr. Nichols attended the finance committee meeting Thursday with board member Kathy Porter, alternate director from Montgomery County, who joined the board in January.

Mr. Nichols and Ms. Porter were the only Maryland representatives at the table, which also includes appointees from Virginia, the District and the federal government.

"Maryland would be very uncomfortable in recommending service cuts," Ms. Porter said.

The board's timely action is crucial because any service cuts or fare changes require public hearings that need to be scheduled in advance.

To stay on the proposed deadline, Metro board members need to approve any options for public consideration by April 14.

Board Chairman Catherine M. Hudgins suggested the board hold a conference call within a week to move forward with the process.

Metro officials recommended $72.5 million in new spending, but identified $74.2 million in cuts to offset the additional costs. The fiscal 2012 spending plan is $1.5 billion - about $2 million more than fiscal 2011.

Fare increases are not being considered, after Metro bumped Metrorail fares by 18 percent last year.

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