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Originally published February 17, 2009 at 1:04 PM | Page modified February 17, 2009 at 2:36 PM

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Metro Transit facing $58 million drop in sales-tax revenue

Consumers' continuing cutbacks in spending and the tax money that comes from it are now forecast to create a $58 million problem for Metro Transit over the next two years on top of that agency's already-lowered revenue expectations.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Consumers' continuing cutbacks in spending and the tax money that comes from it are now forecast to create a $58 million problem for Metro Transit over the next two years on top of that agency's already-lowered revenue expectations.

That's the message local budget and transit officials are expected to deliver this afternoon to the Metropolitan King County Council's Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.

Budget Director Bob Cowan and Transit Director Kevin Desmond will brief the committee on preliminary sales-tax figures and Metro's financial condition.

A PowerPoint presentation prepared for the meeting shows expected sales-tax losses of $22.9 million for Metro in 2009 and $35.2 million in 2010 beyond the reductions predicted in September.

Counting the losses forecast in September and along with the newer numbers, Metro's sales-tax receipts are projected to drop $73.3 million, or 14.9 percent, from the adopted 2008-09 financial plan, and down $100 million, or 19.2 percent from the 2010 plan.

Metro's original sales-tax projections for 2009 and 2010 were $493 million and $522 million respectively.

Human services also will suffer, with revenues from the recently adopted Mental Illness and Drug Dependency sales tax falling $3.3 million below the adopted $48.4 million estimate for 2009 and $4.4 million below the earlier $50.8 million estimate for 2010.

The grim news follows a report to the Legislature last week from the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council that said preliminary sales numbers in January fell below the same month in 2008 for all retail sectors except food and beverage stores: down 30 percent for furniture and home furnishings, 26.8 percent for motor-vehicle dealers and 19.9 percent for gas stations and convenience stores.

Food and beverage sales were up 9.5 percent.

The forecasting group also said that real-estate tax receipts — based on the number and value of property sales — were down 49 percent from January 2008.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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