VA: JAUNT to End Bus Service in Fluvanna

May 10--FORK UNION -- JAUNT will end its bus service in Fluvanna County come July 1 due to last week's decision by the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors to eliminate funds for the nonprofit transport agency in 2013, officials said Wednesday.

"We provide service to Fluvanna and other counties based on a combination of state and federal grants and matching funding from local governments," said Donna Shaunessy, JAUNT executive director. "Federal and state money cannot be used from those grants in a jurisdiction that does not provide matching funds. If we have no matching funds from Fluvanna County, we cannot operate in Fluvanna County."

Supervisors last week cut all funding to the Jefferson Area Board for Aging, JAUNT, Offender Aid and Restoration, StreamWatch and the Louisa/Fluvanna Housing Foundation as part of a last-minute agreement that cut the county's advertised $68 million budget to $66 million.

JAUNT last year provided about 21,000 trips to Fluvanna residents. The service also operated an afterschool activity shuttle bus service for county schools.

All of those will cease on July 1, the first day of the 2013 fiscal year.

"We are worried about those people we serve in Fluvanna who have no way to get to medical appointments or get into Charlottesville to work," Shaunessy said. "Unfortunately, there's not much we can do."

From bus service to meals for seniors and housing improvements, agencies say the board-approved cuts will impact the elderly and poor.

The cuts to nonprofits will force JABA to drop its senior citizen community center program from two days to one and could reduce its meals program, nursing program, home care and case management services.

"It's like a slap in the face," said Thelma Soto, a Fluvanna resident who attends the JABA center twice a week. "It's not fair that we should be penalized and not have the opportunity to keep this center open."

"This feels like someone took a fist and put it to your stomach," said Florence Palmer, a senior center user. "We've become a community here. We're concerned about each other and our families and we try to help folks in the nursing homes and send poorer kids to camp. We don't just play bingo and sit around."

The cuts were made in a budget agreement hammered out between Supervisors Bob Ullenbruch, Donald Weaver and Shaun V. Kenney. The new budget was given to county officials and other supervisors hours before the budget was to be approved.

The changes drop the county's proposed 68-cent real estate tax rate to 59.81 cents per $100 of assessed value. The current tax rate is 57 cents.

Nonprofit officials said they were not contacted about the last-minute cuts and were blindsided by the changes.

"The supervisors had told us that they were going to cut us about 18 percent and we were figuring out how we could adjust to that, but we had no idea they were going to remove all of the funding," said Gordon Walker, executive director of JABA. "To eliminate all of the funding without saying a word? We feel ambushed."

Howard Evergreen, of the Fluvanna/Louisa Housing Foundation, echoed that sentiment.

"This process is probably the most awful we've been through in 25 years," Evergreen said. "To have no notice that this was going to happen at this late date is appalling."

Evergreen said the foundation -- which helps with temporary housing for residents, provides rent vouchers, rebuilds and repairs homes -- will have to reassess which services it can provide within its budget.

"I don't know what the board of directors is going to decide, but if we don't get any money at all from Fluvanna, I can't imagine we'll be able to do much for the people in Fluvanna," he said.

Copyright 2012 - The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va.