Local Government

State budget stalemate hurts Quincy Transit Lines' expansion potential

Quincy Transit Lines Director Marty Stegeman said the city has sought to expand services to all of Adams County for several years, but with no state budget, the expansion has not moved forward. | H-W File Photo
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 17, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Apr. 18, 2017 8:21 am

QUINCY -- The state's inability to pass a budget has left many question marks for Quincy Transit Lines and future growth.

Transit Director Marty Stegeman on Monday said the city has sought to expand services to all of Adams County for several years, but with no state budget, the expansion has not moved forward.

Stegeman presented to the Quincy City Council a fiscal 2018 budget of just over $4 million for the bus service that would allow for the expansion of service, as well as the installation of a bus wash system in the city's former transit building at 18th and Seminary Road. Expansion proposals initially focus on riders who are disabled or elderly, though it would be expanded to fixed routes.

"If the state approves a budget, we'll than look at moving forward on that," Stegeman said.

Stegeman presented the budget to aldermen who questioned department heads for the second week of the budget process. The council is expected to vote on the plan next week.

The $33.4 million spending plan shows revenues of $32.7 million. Officials say expenses exceed the revenue by about $700,000 because of a pension funding plan approved by aldermen that uses money from the general fund reserves.

Even if the city doesn't expand bus services or receive a grant for the bus wash system, Stegeman said Quincy Transit Lines must budget for higher revenues and expenses.

"In order for us to optimize the amount of grant money that we get, we have to present expenses commensurate to that amount," Stegeman said. "Will we spend $4 million next year? Not likely. Will we spend the $3.2 million this year? No, we're going to spend about $2.3 million."

Stegeman knows it is a long shot for the projects to move forward. Quincy Transit Lines borrows $750,000 each year from the city's reserves as it waits for state grant money to arrive. Grant money accounts for more than 88 percent of the bus service's revenue.

During this fiscal year, the City Council approved an additional $250,000 loan from reserves in case grant money for bus service didn't arrive, but it came in December.

Stegeman told aldermen that the city has sought an automatic bus wash since 2009 and it was awarded a grant in 2014. However, the city has never received the money.

The $533,450 bus wash project is expected to save the city time and water.

"It also can wash a full-size bus in roughly six minutes," Stegeman said. "Currently, it takes about 40 minutes to wash the outside of a bus only."

Airport Manager Terrence Ward said projects that were included in Quincy Regional Airport's budget were to improve safety and continue a good working relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration. This includes the completion of fencing skirting that prevents wildlife from burrowing under it, realignment of Taxiway D, and a the reconstruction of one of the runways.

The first phase of the $2.5 million runway project would be 90 percent federally funded. The city would pay $130,000 as its share.

"This is extremely important that this project is done if this runway is to remain open," Ward said. "When I actually got here, it was in such bad condition I had to have bumps shaved off just to put a Band-Aid on it."

The airport's operating budget of $1.238 million calls for just over $546,000 from the city's general fund to subsidize operations.

The council also learned that Central Services's fiscal 2018 budget will be $3.631 million, which is down about 4 percent. The drop in expenses for the department is attributed to shifting the street cleaning division to the sewer fund.

The Central Garage budget is flat at $1.795 million, though internal revenue charges from other departments is expected to dip because of newer Quincy Transit Lines buses and other newer vehicles.

Aldermen also received budget reports from Planning and Development, Information Technologies, the comptroller's office, purchasing, and the mayor and director of administrative services.