TAWC forced to slash nearly $100,000 from budget

The Transit Authority of Warren County (TAWC) budget for 2013-2014 will be nearly $100,000 less than the current spending plan.

Figures reflect a $1,744,801 budget for this year, as opposed to $1,842,907 last year. The largest reduction $56,369 is in the Medical Assistance program, due to a decrease in fares and mileage reimbursement. The assistance program provides transportation to and from medical appointments, or a reimbursement of 12 cents per mile for a private vehicle, as opposed to 26 cents per mile last year. Funding for the program comes from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare, which mandated the reduction.

The Shared Ride program, which utilizes small buses to transport to specific places with reservations made at least 24 hours in advance, had a decrease of $3,266 in mechanic’s wages and fringe benefits, and a decrease of $17,000 in drivers’ wages and benefits. Two full-time positions were filled with part-time jobs.

Fixed Route services with full-size buses running standard routes showed a decrease of $14,336 in drivers’ wages, fringe benefits and taxes, and a $2,000 decrease in fuel costs.

The Shared Ride is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery, and Fixed Route are funded with matching local funds. Both are PennDOT programs. Matching local funds come from the county, the City of Warren, and many townships that receive services.

Despite lower funding levels, TAWC Executive Director John Aldrich said, “There are no real changes in services, no changes in fares. Two years ago, the fares were increased from 75 cents to $1 because of pressure from PennDOT.”

Warren County Housing Authority representative Melissa Morse said she was pleased that fares will remain at current levels. “A lot of our residents ride the bus, not only in Warren, but in Youngsville,” she said, adding that many residents of authority-operated properties do not own vehicles and rely heavily on TAWC.

Aldrich noted that a majority of the riders are city residents, but many from outlying areas use the buses to come to Warren to shop.

The new budget assumes a gasoline cost of $4.75 per gallon and a diesel cost of $5, so if prices remain lower, savings could be substantial.

Aldrich said the grant application for PennDOT-funded programs is due by the end of May, and is about three-quarters complete.