County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, calling MTA officials disingenuous for suggesting otherwise, said Wednesday that an increase in bus fares is on the horizon. “I think the agency has to be publicly upfront that it’s headed for a fare increase,” Yaroslavsky said as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority opened hearings into a $3 billion budget proposed for fiscal 2006-07. Facing a $112 million operating deficit, administrators propose closing the gap by raiding MTA’s cash reserves, leaving a relatively small $66 million to cover emergencies. Unless the agency can produce millions more in revenue, Yaroslavsky told an MTA committee, “You are going to have to raise those fares, and you are going to have to raise those fares a lot.” But the Bus Riders Union, which forced the consent decree requiring expanded services for the poor and minorities, says it expects some routes to be eliminated when the decree expires in October. “It’s not only gutting the consent decree, but it’s calling for chopping up a lot of service,” said Manuel Criollo, a lead organizer in the Bus Riders Union. The fiscal crisis comes as the agency faces skyrocketing fuel prices and labor negotiations with powerful unions representing about 7,000 employees. Last year fuel prices shot up $14 million over budget. The agency last changed fares in 2004 – the first time allowed since the 1986 consent decree – increasing a monthly pass by $10 to $52 and lowering the one-way price from $1.35 to $1.25. [email protected] (818) 713-3741160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBasketball roundup: Sierra Canyon, Birmingham set to face off in tournament quarterfinalsThe full MTA board will consider the budget next week. MTA administrators say they are treating the upcoming budget as a stop-gap measure to buy time while they increase efficiencies, scale back routes, turn over some services to municipal operators and renegotiate fare-recovery contracts. “We have a level of service we cannot sustain. It’s not a secret,” said Roger Snoble, the agency’s chief executive. He said a federal consent decree that requires the MTA to expand service in order to minimize crowding on buses is one of the key reasons for the agency’s budget crisis. Next year, the MTA is expected to implement a “smart card” that could allow it to set fares based on distance and other factors.