Vicksburg to fork over more bucks for NRoute

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, May 30, 2012

NRoute is getting more money from the City of Vicksburg.

Mayor Paul Winfield said Tuesday the city will give the transportation system extra money — though he said he doesn’t know how much — to pay June bills and then increase the city’s monthly allocation to NRoute to help it erase a projected $50,000 deficit at the close of the fiscal year, at the end of September. The city currently gives NRoute a monthly $11,250 supplement.

Winfield told NRoute executive director Evelyn Bumpers and Nathan Cummins of May and Company, the transportation system’s accountant, to determine how much extra NRoute will need for June and it will be approved during a special meeting Thursday. Long-term aid will be addressed later.

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Winfield said he plans to ask the Warren County Board of Supervisors to contribute $10,000 for NRoute. The county gave NRoute $30,000 earlier in the fiscal year.

He also told NRoute commissioners to make more budget cuts.

The system’s fiscal 2012 budget is $780,000. Cummins projected NRoute’s monthly revenues at $40,000 and expenses at $50,000 a month for the rest of the fiscal year.

NRoute’s funding comes from three sources, the city’s monthly supplement, federal transportation grant funds administered by the Mississippi Department of Transportation and fares from riders. Bumpers said the federal grant is a reimbursement grant, meaning NRoute pays the bills up front and is reimbursed at a percentage of its costs, 80 percent for administration and capital costs, and 50 percent for operations.

The system’s profit and loss statement for April showed income from the combined funding sources totaled $37,548, while expenses for the same period totaled $55,502, for a $17,954 deficit.

Ridership through May was higher than for the same time in fiscal 2011, but fares were down $408 from 2011, and down $8,601 from fiscal 2010. The commissioners have attributed the change to more purchases of discounted monthly passes.

NRoute in 2010 signed a contract with a Monroe, La., company to sell advertising on its benches at bus stops. The financial report presented Tuesday by Cummins indicated the advertising brought in $1,060 this fiscal year — $660 in December and $400 in February.

The commissioners in October changed NRoute’s bus routes, cutting 21 routes across the city, shifting five routes to Clay Street and moving others to serve the city’s medical offices to increase ridership. Bumpers said the route changes were based on rider comments.

She said NRoute currently runs two vans and two buses daily with six buses and two vans as backups. She said the system also has six diesel buses that are not being used and belong to the city. Winfield said he wants to use some of the buses to develop a shuttle service between area hotels and the Vicksburg Convention Center. Remaining buses will be declared surplus and sold at auction, he said.

“We’ve cut to the bone and altered routes,” commissioner Don Brown said. “We can’t cut anything else. The costs of operation have exceeded our revenue. I think we’ve been very good stewards of the money we have, but things are costing more.”

Despite the cuts, Cummins said NRoute’s finances will be tight for June.

“We don’t have the money to pay the bills the first of the month,” commissioner Alvin Taylor said.

Bumpers said the extra city funds plus $14,480 in state multimodal funds, that were shifted from NRoute’s capital budget to operations, and the monthly $25,000 state supplement should help the system survive June and give it a boost for July. The state money will be released later in June, she said.