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HOUSTON The Metro Transit Board announced on Thursday that Metro will have a budget shortfall of $49 million this year.

The board blamed a decrease in ridership and lower tax revenue for the shortfall.

The shortfall has slowed spending on Light Rail construction, and the board was asking Metro staff to develop other ways to cut costs.

Metro's CEO George Greanias has said that Metro will not be operating at a deficit for the year and has money in its reserve accounts which will prevent cuts in operations.

Greanias said the slow-down in spending on Light Rail construction is primarily due to not receiving federal pre-approval that would permit future reimbursements.

Metro said it is asking the federal government to expedite the grant process.

In the meantime, business owners located in the middle of light rail construction are none too happy about the news.

Jack Zakaullah, who has owned President Wine, Beverages and Beer on the corner of Fulton and Halpern for 27 years, said construction on Metro's North Line is taking a toll. He wonders why some businesses have been compensated for their losses, but not his.

I'm uncomfortable. I'm upset, because I'm a taxpayer. I work hard every day ... I just want to know why, he said.

Metro said it will stick to its agreement to complete the work by 2013.

This is very much like remodeling your house and insisting on living in it while you do it, Greanias said.

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