An official said the agency is facing a $75,000 to $100,000 shortfall next year.
By NORMAN LEIGH
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Patrons of a nonprofit rural transit system operating in Columbiana County face possible fare increases and service reductions.
County commissioners learned of the potential changes Wednesday from Carol Bretz, director of the Community Action Agency of Columbiana County Inc.
Bretz said she is proposing the changes to help the agency cope with an anticipated $75,000 to $100,000 shortfall in 2002. The shortage is caused largely by a nearly $23,000 state funding cut and anticipated increases in insurance costs.
Final approval for the fare increase and service reductions must come from the agency's board of trustees, which will consider the matter at its Dec. 20 meeting.
If the board approves the changes, they would take effect Jan. 1.
Current fare for a ride between Columbiana County communities is $1.50. That amount could be raised to $2, Bretz told commissioners. Elderly and disabled riders now pay 75 cents for a ride. Their cost would go to $1. Fares were last increased by the agency in 1994.
Also proposed is elimination of the transit system's weekend service.
Patrons: The Community Action Rural Transit System serves nearly 5,000 people annually, many of whom are elderly or disabled.
Bretz said she is concerned about the impact on the agency's patrons, especially those who depend on the transport to get to doctor appointments and stores.
"It's very frustrating," Commissioner Sean Logan said of the proposed changes. They are likely to negatively affect "those who can least afford it," he said.
Voice concerns: Anyone wishing to voice an opinion on the proposed changes may attend a public hearing set for 9 a.m. Dec. 6 at the Community Action office, 7880 Lincole Place, Lisbon.
Besides fare increases and service reductions, the agency also is considering layoffs among its 33-person staff, Bretz said.
The agency's 2001 operating budget is $606,192, much of which comes from federal and state grants.