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KAT proposes status quo budget for 2012

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WILLMAR -- The proposed 2012 budget and hours of service for the Kandiyohi Area Transit is the same as last year, but if state transit funds are cut, local services may have to be reduced or local fares increased.

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The KAT Joint Powers Board agreed Friday to propose a "status quo" operations budget to the transit division of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which provides grants to transit systems in Greater Minnesota.

Because KAT isn't buying any new buses this year, the proposed 2012 operations budget of $1,220,540 is actually about $25,000 less than last year's budget.

Typically MnDOT provides 80 percent of KAT's operation's budget.

But that share could change this year because of reduced state funding, said Tiffany Collins, KAT transit director.

"We'll have to wait and see what MnDOT comes up with," said Collins, adding that the KAT Joint Powers Board spent considerable time at its meeting Friday morning discussing how to come up with new revenues to cover increasing costs with less state money.

KAT has already made changes to maintain existing transit services without new money, even though fuel, bus maintenance and insurance costs are steadily increasing.

"It has been a challenge to maintain a budget that's at the same level (as in the past) and yet keep providing the same level of service," Collins said.

She said personnel changes were made to reduce the number of dispatchers. That means phones may not be answered as quickly as in the past, but the savings are helping to keep buses on the roads without a reduction in hours or routes.

"Our goal is to maintain those hours that are out there to the public," Collins said.

Once MnDOT tells KAT what its state funding level will be, then the final 2012 budget will be prepared and decisions made to reduce service or increase fares.

Collins said the goal is to maintain existing services without a fare increase, which would be a financial hardship for the typical KAT passenger.

"We're very hesitant to raise passenger fares because the people who use the transit system are in the low income group," she said.

MnDOT is expected to respond to KAT's financial request by October. KAT's final budget won't likely be approved until December.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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