Winfield sees city taking over NRoute as more cash OK’d

Published 11:42 am Tuesday, July 17, 2012

By John Surratt

NRoute was bailed out by the City of Vicksburg again Monday, this time by nearly $5,000 more than officials had said earlier they would be willing to kick in.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted 2-1 to give NRoute $7,950 to pay July bills, $4,950 more than the $3,000 the board said in June it was willing to cough up to supplement the bus system.

South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman cast the opposing vote, saying he had questions about the bus system’s management.

The board in June gave NRoute a $7,045 supplement to meet bills for that month and said it would increase the city’s monthly supplement by up to $3,000 a month based on a projection of the bus line’s needs for the rest of the fiscal year. At the time, the bus line’s cash flow report projected a year-end $50,000 deficit.

The city’s current monthly payment for NRoute is $11,250; this month, it is $19,200.

After Monday’s meeting, Mayor Paul Winfield said the $3,000 estimate was based on hopes the Warren County Board of Supervisors would increase its funding for NRoute.

“No one has approached the county for help, so we felt we had to go in and pay the money to help them meet their expenses,” he said.

Winfield also hinted the time might be now for the board to consider returning NRoute to city purview.

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said that’s “a bad idea for two reasons: One, it would be bogged down with politics, and two, any and all funds for NRoute would have to either be administered by, or come from, the city. That means creating a whole new department to meet the state and federal government regulations.”

Winfield said Monday that he has asked NRoute executive director Evelyn Bumpers to ask for extra funding from the Warren County Board of Supervisors, which allocated $30,000 for NRoute in its 2012 budget. Bumpers said later she is trying to arrange a meeting with supervisors.

Winfield said he was willing to accompany Bumpers to meet with the supervisors, but he and Mayfield are not optimistic about NRoute’s chances for more county money.

“I was on that board for 10 years,” said Mayfield. “They follow their budget. I can count on one hand the number of times they amended the budget while I was there. It’s going to be very hard to get anything from the county.”

If the county doesn’t provide funds, Winfield said, the city will have to fund the supplements.

After Monday’s meeting, Winfield said NRoute needs better financial management and repeated his suggestion that dissolution of the NRoute Commission and a return to the city would provide what the system needs.

NRoute was launched in June 2006 and operations were turned over to an independent five-member board in February 2007. The board has two vacancies.

He said city residents would have to approve the move in a referendum, which could be on the city’s general election ballot in June 2013.

The board’s decision Monday followed a letter Bumpers sent to the city Friday seeking the extra money and including an updated projection of revenues and expenses for the remaining three months of the fiscal year.

According to the updated projections, the bus system’s anticipated revenue is $127,650. Expenses are projected at $185,250, a difference of $57,600, or an average deficit of $19,200 for each of the next three months — $7,950 over its monthly $11,250 city supplement.

The cash flow statement presented in May by Nathan Cummings of May and Company, NRoute’s accountants, indicated that NRoute would lose an average of about $16,700 a month from July through Sept. 30, about a $2,500 difference from the $19,200 estimated in the updated report.

The difference, Bumpers said, was because the May estimates did not include three pay periods in August.

Bumpers said NRoute employees are paid twice a month. She said August has an additional pay period.

“I’m glad we received the supplement,” she said. “It feels good to know we’ll be able to pay our bills.”