By J. L. Rebeor
FULTON, NY – Deleting the city’s bus operations line in the 2014 budget does not mean the end of the line for public transportation in Fulton.
City leaders approved the $15.9 million spending plan on Dec. 26.
The new budget completely removed all city funding to subsidize bus operations.
The 2013 approved budget was $15.45 million and the bus operations line accounted for $20,000 in spending last year.
Mayor Ron Woodward said the bus operations money was paid to Centro to support its public bus service in the city of Fulton. Due to the escalating costs of government employee’s health insurance and pension plans, and the decline of assessed property value, in order to keep the city’s budget “lean and mean” Woodward said all non-essential city services went under the microscope.
That put Centro’s subsidy on the chopping block.
Before the decision was made to zero-out the budget line, the mayor said city leaders and Centro representatives agreed the buses would remain in service.
That was due, in part, to the company’s contractual agreements with its employees.
“They certainly understand because they deal with things like the (New York State Civil Service Law), too. With unions and contracts, things are very hard to change,” the mayor said.
Centro’s Director of Marketing and Communications Steven Koegel said as a result of the elimination of the city’s $20,000 subsidy to Centro, the bus service would continue to serve city residents, but at a slightly reduced level.
“Although, we have not formally prepared a new schedule as of yet, our anticipation is that we will discontinue the last evening trip on each weekday and on Saturdays,” Koegel said.
According to Mayor Woodward, taxpayers have supported Centro’s Fulton bus runs since 1982 when the company began serving the community.
“At that time, the city started subsidizing them to the tune of $20,000 a year,” the mayor said.
Woodward noted that the bus company operations director removed the last run of the day because it was the one least used by residents.
“So, if you consider the size of those buses running all over the city of Fulton, (removing that run) may even have been a financial benefit to them,” he said. “(We) tried to make it so that it didn’t hurt anybody too bad.”
Koegel said the last bus would likely come off Fulton’s streets around 6 p.m. on weekdays and 4:45 p.m. on Saturdays.
Currently, the runs end at 6:55 p.m. on weekdays and 5:45 p.m. on Saturdays.
“We have not determined the date the service changes would go into effect,” Koegel said. “We will notify our customers of the effective date as soon as it is determined.”