Metro is continuing its hiring boom with a proposal to add 327 positions to its workforce in the next budget year.

The move would mark the fourth consecutive year that Metro is bolstering its ranks, swelling its staffing to nearly 12,700 positions, not including hundreds of contractors.

The proposed increase, which still needs approval from the agency's board of directors, is fewer than the 1,013 positions the agency plans to add during the current fiscal year. But it still represents a 2.6 percent increase.

Metro's budgeted staffing levels
Fiscal 2002: 9,965
Fiscal 2003: 10,156
Fiscal 2004: 10,015
Fiscal 2005: 10,294
Fiscal 2006: 10,451
Fiscal 2007: 11,102
Fiscal 2008: 11,483
Fiscal 2009: 11,232
Fiscal 2010: 10,853
Fiscal 2011: 10,974
Fiscal 2012: 11,319
Fiscal 2013: 12,332
Proposed 2014: 12,659

Metro's budget proposal says 98 of the new positions, or just under a third, are for the new Silver Line, which is slated to open in December 2013.

Another 98 slots are for bus service improvements.

An additional 69 are intended to help reduce fatigue among overtaxed workers, part of a $17 million plan General Manager Richard Sarles has proposed for the next two years in response to spiraling overtime expenses and dangerously long hours worked by track workers, rail operators and rail technicians.

The agency is seeking 29 new positions for "increased security" but did not respond to questions about what those workers would do.

An additional 27 spots would be for unspecified information technology work that is now done by contractors.

A net of six more spots is for "operational improvements" that aren't specified, though elsewhere in the proposal Metro calls for four more people in human resources and three more in the customer service, marketing and communications division.

The average annual pay systemwide would be $76,137 under the proposal, not including the average of $34,423 more that the agency spends per person for benefits such as health care and pension costs. However, the pay ranges widely in a system that pays its general manager $350,000 per year.

The additional staffing comes on top of the usual hiring that Metro needs to do to backfill normal retirements and departures. In 2012, Metro hired 1,866 employees, General Manager Richard Sarles said, and the agency plans to hire 1,776 more in this calendar year.

The boom in hiring comes after the agency got rid of its construction staff, after Metro stopped building new stations and lines in 2004. The Silver Line, now under construction, is being built by contractors. But Metro has since hired back as many workers and more than it had during the building boom.