Mayor Dave Cieslewicz's proposed 2006 Executive Operating Budget includes increased funding for the Madison Metro System.

If approved, the budget would provide Madison Metro with $360,000 more than the mayor's '05 budget provided. George Twigg, communications director for the mayor, said increased Metro costs have created a necessity for more funds.

"There is simply a need for more funds," Twigg said. "Fuel costs are skyrocketing and the cost to operate Madison Metro has gone through the roof."

Catherine Debo, general manager of the Madison Metro System, expressed the need for increased funding for the system at a Madison Downtown Coordinating Committee meeting.

"Fuel prices have been a big problem for us. We're now paying $2.31 per gallon, higher than the cost has ever been," Debo said. "The increase raises the net cost to the City of Madison $700,000."

Debo said Madison Metro increased the cost of fares in August to deal with the increasing gas prices.

The $360,000, which falls short of the net cost to the city, is a figure the mayor guaranteed Madison Metro before he began creating the budget, according to Twigg.

"The mayor promised Metro he would provide enough funds to match the money raised by increased fares," Twigg said. "We came to the conclusion that the increased fares would bring in about $360,000."

Debo said the difference in funding would result in 8,000 fewer service hours, making it difficult for Metro to provide enough service for people who ride the bus.

"I want funding stability for Madison Metro," Debo said. "More funding will help us maintain and improve our service. If we don't get the funding we need, we won't be able to provide enough service to meet the needs of the citizens of Madison."

Twigg explained the city can't provide sufficient financial support for Debo's mass transit system.

"The Madison Metro System's costs have gone up substantially recently, and the city is struggling to keep pace with their costs," Twigg said.

At his budget press conference Tuesday, Cieslewicz said maintaining a mass transit system in the city, though difficult, has always been one of his priorities.

"I have a strong belief in supporting the Madison Metro System," Cieslewicz said. "In my budget, I have maintained my strong commitment to its funding."

Cieslewicz said his financial support for Metro has increased by 14 percent over the last two years.

According to Twigg, the mayor believes strongly in the benefits the Metro System provides the city.

"Having the Madison Metro System is important for a lot of reasons," Twigg said. "The Metro reduces emissions in the city, helps to reduce traffic on the roads, is a life line for low-income individuals and provides benefits and quick transportation for students without vehicles who are looking to travel across campus or across the city."

Twigg said though city funding is not as much as the transit system requested from the bus system, Cieslewicz's goal is to maintain Metro.

"The mayor will do everything he can to keep the Metro system running and healthy," Twigg said.

The Madison City Council will vote on the budget Nov. 15.