Monday, June 17, 2024

Pump the brakes: Discussion of SporTran service in Bossier City to continue

by BIZ Magazine

By Stacey Tinsley, BIZ. Magazine

The Bossier City Council has voted to continue discussions on the ordinance that would reduce SporTran’s budget.

The vote on the ordinance came at the Tuesday, January 25, 2023 meeting. That agenda item has been continued until February 21.

“While I am open to renegotiating this contract that has been in place since the mid-1970s, I do not agree with the timing of this decision as we are less than one month into the current year’s budget,” said Bossier City Mayor Tommy Chandler. “I do not oppose reevaluating our annual appropriation to SporTran, but it should be done during budget negotiations for the 2024 operating budget, not less than two months after this year’s budget was adopted.”

Several SporTran riders and citizens spoke at the meeting to relay how reducing services would adversely affect themselves and the community.

The annual public transit budget for the City was approximately $900,000 until early January. The new proposed budget will decrease to $500,000 per year.

To meet the new budget number, SporTran released a prospective schedule eliminating mid-day, night, and weekend travel for Bossier routes set to begin on February 5.

“(Tuesday’s) Bossier City Council meeting left us with more questions than answers,” said SporTran CEO Dinero’ Washington. “We were initially told that services were being cut due to a city budget crisis, and that other departments were also facing shortfalls. (Then) Mayor Chandler stated that there is no budget crisis in Bossier and he was unsure why the council would approve our budget in late 2022 then cut it the first week in January.”

Chandler said the city council has the authority to reduce SporTran’s budget via ordinance and if adopted, it will increase the City’s 2023 General Fund balance by $400,000. He said if the council reduces the funding for public transportation, he will proposed those dollars are reinvested to benefit the citizens of Bossier City.

“Public safety is one of my top priorities and additional funds would allow the Bossier City Police Department to hire more officers to meet the needs of our growing city. Other agencies within Bossier City could also benefit from additional funding, such as Bossier Council on Aging, which provides transportation and meals to our elderly population within the City,” Chandler added.

Washington noted that he is unsure if the February 5 timeline for the proposed service cuts will move forward.

“We’ve reached out to the council for clarity and will be meeting with them very soon,” Washington said. “Ideally, we’d like for them to keep our original budget whole so we can continue providing the citizens of Bossier with useful public transit.”

Chandler noted that he is pleased to see that the city council is giving this agenda item additional consideration as the city and SporTran work through the process.

“While I don’t agree with the timing of this budget amendment, I am focusing on making sure these funds will be used to benefit the citizens of Bossier City,” Chandler said.

Washington said he is also pleased to see the discussion continue.

“We’re hopeful that Councilman Hammons’ motion to continue talks for another month will provide insight into why our budget is being cut and how we can provide the best service possible on the reduced funding,” he said.

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