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State budget woes keep KAT cautious

WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi Area Transit has been told not to expect a funding increase next year. The transit system is also bracing for potential cuts this year as it waits for Gov. Tim Pawlenty to finalize his unallotment of 2009 program funding.

"We're definitely on alert to see what the governor's plans are," said KAT Transit Director Tiffany Collins.

Eighty percent of KAT's funding comes from federal and state grants. The remaining 20 percent comes from contributions from Kandiyohi County, the city of Willmar and other local cities and entities.

There's concern the Minnesota Department of Transportation's transit budget could be reduced as Pawlenty searches for ways to cut the budget by $2.7 billion.

If Local Government Aid to cities and counties is reduced, that could mean more cuts to KAT as those local entities look for ways to reduce their budgets.

The city of New London, for example, is considering reducing its annual $2,600 contribution.

If KAT's revenues are reduced, services throughout the system may also have to be reduced, said Collins.

All attempts will be made to maintain access to KAT buses in the county, but she said some routes that have low ridership could be reduced. That could mean KAT buses might go to outlying communities fewer times a day or a week.

Collins told the KAT operating board on Tuesday that she would be attending a transit grant meeting on June 11 when more budget information would likely be available.

Meanwhile, KAT is preparing to begin a new home-to-work route that will target residents who live on the west side of Willmar and work in the industrial park. Most of the funding for that new route came from a special federal program.

In other action, the KAT operating board was informed that a settlement had been reached last week with an individual who claimed to have been injured in a bus incident. Collins said the $4,000 settlement was less expensive than going to trial and spending $10,000 to $12,000 on attorney fees.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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