Andrew Trzaska | June 26, 2012
The long-term fate City of Muskegon’s Senior Transit service will rest on a November millage ballot proposal, as the city commission approved a stopgap funding measure through a combination of leftover city funds and doubling the rate per ride to make up the difference.
City commissioners voted unanimously to approve the temporary measure, which will ensure the program will operate five days a week through the end of 2012.
The cost the city will put into the program through the end of the year will be approximately $24,000, and will come from “unanticipated savings in the Streets/Lighting budget”. The rest will be made up by rider fares. Riders will now pay $3 per ride for a total of $6 round trip, a 100% increase from the current $1.50 per ride rate.
The program is available to Muskegon residents ages 62 years and over and of low to moderate income. The program was about to be cut from next year’s city budget. After hearing many public comments in support of it at the last full commission meeting, city commissioners opted to pull Senior Transit from that budget approval in attempt to find an alternative plan to keep it going.
The idea of the rider fare increase appeared to spring from the last full commission meeting, when several senior citizens suggested a higher fare would be a lesser evil than reduced service or none at all. Other senior citizens commented at Tuesday’s meeting that the new fare was too high.
The ballot language provided at Tuesday’s meeting asks for a 0.1 mill of taxable value of personal property starting in 2012. If the millage passes, rates would be determined for the future at that time.
Commissioner Larry Spataro indicated that the city would be hard pressed to find more money after December. He cited the city’s forecasts of future budget deficits due to the looming closing of the B.C. Cobb power plant and state-driven cuts of the personal property tax as factors.
When asked in a public comment if the city’s rainy day fund could be used, Mayor Steve Warmington echoed Spataro’s warnings of the future:
“If it’s raining now, in a few years, it’ll be pouring.”
He urged the public to vote in November if they want to see the program continue:
“It’s important for people who want to maintain this program, here’s your chance to get your friends and family to show up in November.”