Running on empty

Commissioners allot local funds for 2013 bailout
Andy Ouriel
Feb 28, 2014

 

Imagine driving from Sandusky to Cleveland and running out of fuel when arriving in Avon.

Without AAA or a good friend to siphon fuel from, you’ve got a big problem.

Now consider Sandusky Transit administrators coming up $318,000 short of their $2.2 million 2013 budget.

Sandusky city commissioners played the role of companion this time — but they won’t pick up a bill of this magnitude again.

Follow the money
The Register takes an in-depth look at Sandusky’s $16.3 million operating budget this week and tells readers where the money’s spent: 

•WEDNESDAY: Horticultural and greenhouse operations 

•THURSDAY: Sandusky Transit and public transportation 

•FRIDAY: Recreational assets 

•SATURDAY: Paving, plowing and patching up streets 

•SUNDAY: Dealing with a downsized fire department 

•MONDAY: Cemetery services

Local funds provided a $318,000 bailout so transit administrators could balance their budget in 2013.

Sandusky Transit services mostly relies on state and federal grants along with local rider fares to sustain operations.

But when a transitrelated shortfall happens, commissioners must transfer money from their everyday operating budget, totaling $16.3 million this year, to offset any negative balance. The everyday operating budget covers dozens of services, including police, fire and greenhouse services.

The transfer occurred amid a fiscal crisis in which a $1.1 million citywide shortfall resulted in commissioners this past Monday voting to eliminate four full-time fire positions. By May, three firefighters stand to lose their jobs as the fourth position is currently empty.

“We have to get the transit to a point where it’s taking less from the general fund,” Sandusky ex officio mayor Dennis Murray Jr. said.

Commissioners only budgeted about $60,000 to help balance out transit’s bottom line, if needed, in 2014.

If Sandusky Transit can’t at least break even in 2014, several drawbacks will occur, which could include officials slashing bus services, shortening routes, increasing fare prices and laying off some of the department’s work force, consisting of about 35 full- and part-time employees.

City officials have considered placing ads both inside and outside buses. They also want government officials benefiting fromtransit services, where buses pick up and drop off passengers, to pony up some funds.

“We are working on numerous projects that will generate considerable funds,” Sandusky Transit administrator Thomas Schwan said. “The goal is that no funds are needed from the general fund of the city”

Comments

reader

Is there any support from the county for the transit service? Seems only fair since many of the passengers are traveling to employment and shopping outside the city limits?

Any word from any businesses willing to help provide shelters for their customers or employees?

slightthroat212

do they charge their riders? If so, how much? If not, perhaps they should start charging a minimal fee for their services outside the area to such places as the mall or anywhere in perkins township. If they are going to work out there, perhaps the businesses that depend on their workers taking public transportation should "kick in" a fee for "delivering" their workers isn't such a bad idea. Add the daily transport fee to the workers paycheck so they can pay the daily fair or pay the company directly and perhaps give them a dicount for more than one rider.

Darkhorse

Taking $318,000 out of the general fund to cover the enormous debt is inexcusable and the city wonders why it can't support 4 firemen that are going to be laid off, simply amazing. Where is the city manager when all this is happening? Why isn't she managing the situation instead of allowing it to get so out of hand? The past commissioners sure allowed a lot of things to slide instead of addressing the issue. I guess it is too easy to pull money from the general fund.

donutshopguy

City commissioners allocate $300,000 to provide city residents the ability to shop outside the city but can't supply fire protection to residents.

Isn't the city responsibility to provide for all citizens not just an entitled few ?

sandusky2012

318,000$ because they cannot budget? lets charge those cedar point employeees more to ride the bus!!!! what did you thnk would happen by charging only $1.00

GoBigLex2001

Do you realize what Cedar Point employees make? I will tell you its barely minimum wage in most cases. The big wigs get the most money, the low level employees that make that big money possible get crap.

donutsh0pguy

Cut this service already, Murray said this is a walkable city so walk people. "Save City Services Tax the Tourist"

GoBigLex2001

Isnt there a private company who could take over for the public transit? Maybe a cab company?

donutshopguy

How come every time a government entity provides a service it cost more than a private company?

Stop the madness

T. A. Schwanger

###

I was under the impression, in speaking with City officials, the $300,000 was a one time occurrence when the program switched hands between Federal and State financial control. Now it appears the general fund will be used yearly?

YouMustBeJoking

Yes, that is what happened. And it was just a one time thing. The reason it was even needed was because the city, thought they were getting over on the federal and the state. When they were going over the contracts, they thought that they were going to be able to make between $300,000 and $400,000, by simply switching from one to the other. The only problem was they failed to realize the reason was because one went by a contract year of November to November. and the one they switched to consisted of a contract year that started in March and ended the following March. So there was a 4 month period in which no funding was available, hence the $300,000 "so-called" bailout. The city is using the Sandusky Transit to funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars, from multiple grants and funding sources to other areas, that the city keeps hush hush