State cuts county funding more than expected
State lawmakers took a larger chunk than expected out of Union County’s transportation budget, causing commissioners to dip into contingency funds in order for buses to keep operating. During the board’s Tuesday, Sept. 6 meeting, county manager Cindy Coto explained that the state had cut $5,688 from the Home and Community Block Grant funds the county usually receives, along with $98,765 from the Rural Operating Assistance Program. Those funds are used to help pay for the cost of operating public transportation, to pick up the elderly and disabled.
“It was a much bigger hit than what we were anticipating,” Coto said, adding that the county couldn’t continue operating their public transportation without either assistance from the contingency fund or cutting the level of service.
“I’m not a fan of using one time monies for ongoing expense,” Coto told commissioners, but added it was necessary at this point.
By a unanimous vote, county commissioners approved transferring $50,538 from the Contingency Fund to Transportation, in order to keep the programs running at their current levels.
Counties are required to submit their budgets before the state finalizes their funding for each program. At the time, the state gave each county a projection on how much would be trimmed. Then as the state wrapped up its budget discussions, Coto said county staff members followed the information provided and based their budget projections accordingly. In order to balance the previously expected cuts, the county dropped two full time drivers to part time.
County commissioner Kim Rogers asked if they should start looking to volunteers, to fill the program.
“I don’t know that I would put volunteers to transport the sick and elderly,” Coto said.
Coto warned however that without changes at the state level to the grant program, the county would have to take a look at public transportation, such as bus routes to and from Mecklenburg next year.
“If funding mechanisms do not come forward, at that point we would have to come and identify service level reductions,” Coto said.