Cape Girardeau County Commissioners examine transit authority budget

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cape Girardeau County commissioners virtually grilled Tom Mogelnicki, executive director of the Cape Girardeau County Transit Authority, concerning his proposed 2009 budget, which shows a negative balance of $62,498.

With more than $1.58 million in expenses anticipated next year, Mogelnicki outlined revenue of nearly that much: $1.55 million.

The commission subsidized the transit authority with $20,000 in 2006 and added $30,000 to help pay off the debt. The county gave the transit authority $70,000 in 2007 and again in 2008.

Mogelnicki is asking for $70,000 for 2009 from the county. The transit authority received $110,000 from Cape Girardeau -- which also installed municipal finance director John Richbourg as an ex-officio member of the board of directors -- and $60,000 from the Cape Girardeau County Senior Citizens Services Fund Board. The senior board subsidizes rides for those older than 60 and those with disabilities through a coupon program, which this year included an emergency check for $15,000.

On Saturday, the transit authority will raise the coupon price from $3 to $5 because program funding is exhausted. Mogelnicki indicted that he will ask the senior board for $55,000.

"In the coming year, you're going to have to look at increasing your income and lowering your expenses," 1st District Commissioner Larry Bock told Mogelnicki.

"Or get more funding from the county," Mogelnicki said in a joking tone.

"Don't get me started," Bock replied more seriously as others chuckled.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones also reminded Mogelnicki of the county's less-than-rosy financial outlook, adding, "Don't get excited about big increases."

Mogelnicki said costs to transport people via bus or cab have risen, primarily because of gas prices, but also increased wages, though he said some drivers continue to be underpaid. The budget he provided to the commission Monday reflect a payroll of $855,000, including taxes.

When Bock asked "What is your biggest money loser in this operation?" Mogelnicki responded by looking at Danielle Waites, the authority's business manager.

"The bus," she said.

Mogelnicki went on to explain that the new route, with its promise to pick up from each stop every 30 minutes, will increase ridership. Starting Saturday, the transit authority is offering free Saturday bus rides.

Transit officials heard the same message to be more accountable from the commissioners that he got at the transit authority's executive board meeting.

Toward the end of Mogelnicki's presentation, 2nd District Commissioner Jay Purcell asked him to plan on showing more detailed figures.

"You have to be able to show whoever's investing that the money they're putting in affects the price of rides," he said. "You've got to be able to do that, and right now, we're missing the mark on that."

Mogelnicki emphasized that the operation has had some relief with the drop in gas prices, which he said he expected would be temporary.

Mogelnicki said afterward he thought the meeting went well.

pmcnichol@semissourian.com

388-3646

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