Authority seeks more funding

Tuesday, June 5, 2007
Cape County Transit Authority bus driver Steve Colbert, left, reboarded Monday after he helped passengers disembark at Schnucks in Cape Girardeau. Keri Acevedo and her son Jaime, 11, took the bus service to Wal-Mart. The supercenter and Schnucks are the two most popular stops, Colbert said. The Cape County Transit Authority is requesting $110,000 in subsidies from the city of Cape Girardeau; $40,000 more than last year. (Kit Doyle)

The county transit authority wants bigger subsidies from the cities of Cape Girardeau and Jackson, totaling $67,000.

Transit authority executive director Tom Mogelnicki appealed to the Cape Girardeau City Council on Monday night to increase the city's subsidy by $40,000. That would bring the total subsidy from the city to $110,000 for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Council members listened to the request but stopped short of approving the increase. Mayor Jay Knudtson said the council will consider raising the subsidy when it meets again in two weeks to give final approval to the city operating budget.

In conjunction with the budget, the council unanimously raised sewer, water and trash fees, effective July 1. City officials said the fee increases are necessary to meet expenses.

The average monthly residential utility bill is expected to increase by 3.67 percent or $1.67, bringing the amount to $47.21. The average commercial bill would climb by 3.73 percent or $4.78, bringing the cost to $132.85 a month, officials said.

"While nobody likes increases of any kind, I think it does represent the cost of doing business," Knudtson said.

As for the transit subsidy, the mayor said the council wants to make certain that Cape Girardeau residents will receive the benefits of any increased funding.

Knudtson said the council wants more details on the transit authority's revenue and expenses.

"Show me the money," Knudtson advised Mogelnicki.

The mayor said the transit authority also should look at adding a representative of Cape Girardeau city government to its board.

That would improve communication between the transit authority and city officials, Knudtson said.

Mogelnicki said the transit authority expects to have transported between 25,000 and 30,000 riders on its buses by the end of its first year of operation in July.

The transit authority also operates a taxi service.

Mogelnicki said all of the authority's transit services will have provided transportation to more than 90,000 riders by the end of its inaugural year.

The bus system alone hauls about 600 passengers a week, operating solely in the city of Cape Girardeau, Mogelnicki said.

A larger subsidy would help the transit authority cover increased costs and possibly expand its routes in Cape Girardeau, he told the council.

An expanded bus system could serve the Red Star neighborhood as well as the Cape Girardeau Career and Technology Center.

The bus system might also be extended to serve the Veterans Home, he said.

But without increased funding from Cape Girardeau and other local governments, the transit authority won't break even, Mogelnicki said.

The transit authority needs an additional $150,000 to break even on all of the transportation services it provides.

Mogelnicki said he's seeking funding from various sources including the federal government.

The transit authority has requested increased funding from the city of Jackson. Without such funding, Mogelnicki said, the transit authority would have to increase its fares to provide taxi rides in Jackson.

Mogelnicki, in a memo to Jackson city administrator Jim Roach, has asked for an additional $27,000 subsidy on top of the $6,000 in funding that Jackson already provides.

The issue was on the agenda at the Jackson Board of Aldermen's work session Monday night.

"It is going to be a little bit of a shock to the board to see how much money it is we are talking about, and we are not talking about any enhancement of service," Roach said prior to the alderman meeting.

In a May 25 letter to Cape Girardeau city manager Doug Leslie, Mogelnicki said the transit authority needs a larger subsidy to help cover increases to costs including inflation.

"As you are fully aware, it is extremely difficult to pass on the increased cost to operate to our riders, especially since residents are just now getting used to our services and prices," Mogelnicki wrote.

The increased funding also would allow the transit authority to build an escrow account to pay for replacement of shuttle buses in two years, he wrote.

The city council gave first-round approval to the city's annual operating budget. The budget currently provides only a $70,000 subsidy for the bus system.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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