PART Faces Funding Questions

April 27--Facing a $3.2 million deficit for fiscal year 2011-12, Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation's Board of Directors has some difficult choices to make in the coming weeks.

The board decided April 13 to ask five member counties -- Forsyth, Guilford, Davidson, Randolph and Surry -- to consider a $3 increase on annual license fees on registered vehicles to help offset PART's projected deficit.

Brent McKinney, PART executive director, said Monday that PART has applied for a $900,000 federal grant to help offset the agency's cost as well.

McKinney said PART officials should know by Friday if the grant will be awarded and have a clearer picture on what the final deficit would total.

The $3 vehicle registration increase is just one of several deficit-busting measures suggested by the board April 13, McKinney said. For now, PART has no plan to ask Alamance County for any additional funding to help offset the deficit.

PART doesn't run its Express bus service in Alamance County,butdoesoperateeight vanpool buses in the county. McKinney said the Alamance County Board of Commissioners rejected using PART's Express bus services in December 2009.

During a Dec. 21, 2009, commissioners meeting, McKinney asked Alamance County to pass an increase in car rental or license fees to help fund and bring the Express bus service to the county. The commissioners voted 4-1 against the fee increases.

All of the commissioners on the board voted against the fee increase except for Commissioner Eddie Boswell.

Boswell said Tuesday that he doesn't expect PART to offer its Express bus service anytime soon in Alamance County since the current board doesn't support fee hikes to pay for the service.

"It's a dead issue," Boswell said. "It's not going to happen with the current Board of Commissioners."

Boswell said he doesn't believe that commissioners in the five member counties would increase annual license fees by $3 to help offset PART's deficit either.

"The sentiment of the people is not to raise taxes of any kind," Boswell said.

ALAMANCE COUNTY IS

among 10 counties that are members of PART. PART Express is a regional bus system that connects cities in the Piedmont through 14 routes. There are also 23 park and ride lots located across the Piedmont run by PART.

PART's staff is involved in a number of regional projects related to transit planning, congestion management along regionally significant highway corridors, and impacts of growth and development on mobility and transportation networks.

Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall and Alamance County Commissioner Tom Manning serve as members on the PART Board of Trustees.

CommissionersBillLashley, Tim Sutton and Linda Massey said Tuesday that they still believe they made the right decision in December 2009 to reject PART's proposal to raise fees in the county. Manning was not on the board then; former Commissioner Ann Vaughan was.

Lashley said Tuesday that the PART board's request to ask five counties to increase license fees comes at a bad time.

"Taxpayers always get stuck with asking to do more," Lashley said.

Massey said she wouldn't oppose taking another look at PART providing additional services in Alamance County, if PART could provide different funding methods than what was suggested in 2009. Massey said she doesn't want to target the rental car business or license fees to cover costs.

Sutton said he recognizes that PART was facing difficult financial times, but said adding more burdens on taxpayers isn't the answer.

PART's board is scheduled to meet on May 11 to discuss and review proposed route adjustments and fare increases.

Any approved changes are scheduled to be implemented June 1. McKinney said there are no planned changes for Alamance County's vanpool services. PART's vanpool routes in Alamance County are part of the UNC and Duke University medical center transit routes.

PART's Express bus service ridership is up 13 percent during the first three months of 2011, compared to the same period in 2010. McKinney said Surry County provides PART with more business per capita for its Express services than any other county.

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