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A pair of RTD free mall ride buses make their way up and down the 16th Street Mall drive in Denver on Oct. 2, 2020. (Forrest Czarnecki/The Denver Gazette)

The Regional Transportation District’s board of directors approved a 2021 budget on a preliminary vote this week that would subject more than 400 positions to layoffs, elimination or pay cuts.

CPR reported that better-than-expected sales tax collections mean the $140 million reductions were lower than anticipated. Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1001, RTD's largest labor group, had staunchly opposed layoffs, while acknowledging RTD could still pursue that option without the union’s assent.

“We will NEVER agree to layoffs,” the local said in an Oct. 30 announcement. “RTD has the right to pursue layoffs, but we will never agree.”

The union referenced the HEROES Act, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed on Oct. 1 and would provide $32 billion in transit funding. Local 1001 implied that a Democratic presidential administration and Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate would mean “RTD will have HEROES Act money soon.”

RTD estimated its revenue would drop by 19% over the past year, largely due to a $367.4 million decrease in grant revenue. Farebox money, by contrast, would drop by $5.4 million. The budget increased RTD’s FasTracks savings account to $137 million, and the agency noted an anticipated increase in sales tax revenue of $5.5 million over the prior year.

This week was the first for RTD’s new CEO, Debra Johnson. The 15-member board will also receive five new members following this year’s general election.

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