Friday, April 19, 2013

Mountain Rides faces funding loss

Federal dollars could be cut by more than $200K


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

There may soon be fewer Mountain Rides Transportation Authority buses serving the Wood River Valley, as federal funding cuts seem likely for fiscal year 2014. Photo by Roland Lane

    Mountain Rides Transportation Authority anticipates a cut in federal funding for fiscal year 2014 but the amount of the loss remains a question. However, it could be more than $200,000, which is almost 10 percent of the organization’s current budget.
    “The reality is there probably will be some cuts,” board member Nils Ribi said at a Wednesday meeting of the board of directors. “It’s very likely that we’re not going to get the amount we got in the past.”
    The bad news about funding came earlier this month when an Idaho Transportation Department Region 4 advisory group on federal funding allocations recommended that Mountain Rides receive only about 75 percent of the federal funding the organization wanted for the coming fiscal year. Mountain Rides requested a total of $1,065,000 in federal funding for operations and the advisory group is recommending only $753,446.
    Mountain Rides received $955,000 in federal funding for fiscal year 2013. The organization’s total budget for this fiscal year is $2.4 million.
    Board member Mark Gilbert said a loss of $200,000 would result in about 2,000 service hours being cut.
    However, Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said no final decisions have yet been made on federal funding.
    “I’m more hopeful now what that outcome might be,” Miller said. “At the ITD level, they understand that we’re frustrated by this.”
    Mountain Rides intends to appeal the regional advisory group recommendations at a meeting with the ITD state advisory committee in Boise on April 24. Mountain Rides intends to argue that the regional advisory group did not fully review the funding applications and did not consider “performance data.”
    Part of the rub to Mountain Rides is that the regional advisory committee is recommending that public transportation systems in the Twin Falls area received about 90 percent of the federal money they requested.
    Board Chairwoman Susan McBryant described the situation as “a fluid process; it’s ongoing.”
    “We’ll know more after our meeting in Boise,” McBryant said.
    Mountain Rides has already started tightening its belt in anticipation of fewer federal dollars next year. At the Wednesday meeting, the board voted 6-2 to eliminate several bus trips with low ridership on its Valley Route service, which runs daily between the north valley and the south valley.
    Dissenting votes were cast by board members Sarah Michael and Michael David.
    Gilbert and Ribi argued that Mountain Rides needs to be planning for future funding cuts.
    “The more savings we generate now, the more we’ll have for the future,” Gilbert said.
    Mountain Rides Operations Manager Jim Finch said signs will be posted at bus stops advising riders of services no longer available. He said the cuts will save Mountain Rides more than $14,000.


Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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