Henson: Transit Funding Issue Won't Be Quick Fix

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A quick fix will likely not fix a long-term problem of funding for Meridian Transit System, according to Meridian City Council president Barbara Henson.

Earlier this week, the city council approved $30,000 in additional funding for the bus system on a 3-2 vote. Henson is one of the two who voted against it.

"We need to do something to bring the cost of operation of the transit authority down," said city council president Barbara Henson.

Although she voted against the proposal, Henson said she supports public transportation, but in a more economical way.

"What I have a problem with is that they continually are going in the hole because they can't pay their bills," said Henson. "They don't have enough money coming in, even with subsidies."

Officials with Meridian Transit System say virtually no transit system in the nation operates in the black, due to the high overhead costs for operation.

However, in this time of continuous rising prices at the pump, Henson says all budgets are facing almost the bare bone minimum, meaning these are drastic times that are calling for some drastic measures.

"Where they can operate and provide the service without maybe one person riding a bus. That's just, with the price of gas now, that just won't get it," said Henson. "The thing you've got to do is to run them more economically, like a van would be more economical to run than a bus."

Currently, the Meridian Transit System has an outstanding garage bill with the city that dates back two years and totals more than $31,000. According to city officials, the city forgave a garage debt for a similar amount less than 10 years ago. Henson said the city cannot afford to continue to do that.

"We just need to encourage them to make some drastic efforts to bring the costs down of operations," Henson said.

Although the city council voted earlier this week to grant additional funds to the Meridian Transit System, this is still not a done deal, That's because the mayor has ten days after the vote to decide whether or not to veto it.

County officials also weighed in on the issue Thursday, saying there is simply no money in the budget to help the transit system.

Supervisors board president, Ray Boswell, said until the board works on next year's budget there is no help coming from the county.

"Right now, there is no money for the transit," said Boswell. "We didn't put any in it last year. We feel for them, just as we do all the other departments that run short on funds. But there is no money in the budget at this time."

Boswell said he doesn't know what will happen once the supervisors begin discussing the budget, but knows that increasing the budget will mean more taxes. He added that he doesn't plan to have any tax increases next year.