Friday, September 20, 2013

Mountain Rides gets $4.9M budget

Operating account down 1 percent from fiscal year 2013

Express Staff Writer

Mechanic Carlos Tellez performs bus maintenance Wednesday at the Mountain Rides bus terminal and office facility at Eighth Street and Washington Avenue in Ketchum. The Mountain Rides board of directors on Wednesday approved a $4.9 million budget for fiscal year 2014. Photo by Roland Lane

     The board of directors of Mountain Rides Transportation Authority on Wednesday approved a $4.9 million budget for fiscal year 2014. The budget includes almost $2.4 million for operating expenses and $2.5 million for capital expenditures and contingency funds.

     The operation’s side of the budget is about $20,000 less than Mountain Rides had for fiscal year 2013. However, the loss in operations funding is much less than earlier anticipated; in April Mountain Rides faced a potential cut of $200,000 in federal funding. Federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration is down for fiscal year 2014 by about $89,000. However, much of the loss has been made up by increases in contributions from local funding partners.

     “In general, it is very close to what we had last year, within 1 percent,” Mountain Rides Executive Director Jason Miller said at Wednesday’s monthly board of directors meeting. “Overall, I would characterize funding as very solid and we’re happy with where we ended up with it.”

     The fiscal year 2014 capital budget is significantly higher than the final fiscal year 2013 capital budget, by about $1.8 million. However, the difference is mainly attributable to carryover funds originally budgeted for 2013 for capital improvements that haven’t been spent, including development of a south valley transit center and a transit hub in Ketchum.

     The capital budget also includes almost $.5 million for bus and commuter van replacement or refurbishment. Eighty percent of the funding is from federal grants and the remainder is local match money.

     Miller explained to the board that some of the equipment is wearing out and replacement or refurbishment is a normal cost of maintaining a dependable bus and van fleet.

     Mountain Rides transportation services include free around-town service in Ketchum-Sun Valley and in Hailey, and Valley Route bus service connecting the north and south municipalities of the Wood River Valley. Van service provides commuter transportation between the Magic and Wood River valleys.

     Miller noted at Wednesday’s meeting that the organization’s funding partners came to the rescue, particularly in the operations budget, by contributing additional funding for 2014. Local-partner funding for 2014 is $1.172 million, compared to $1.136 million for 2013.

     The city of Ketchum remains the largest contributor, providing a total of $550,000 for 2014, with about $476,000 for operations and $74,000 for capital improvements.

     The city of Sun Valley is contributing $250,000, with $216,000 for operations and $34,000 for capital.

     Sun Valley Co.’s contribution to Mountain Rides for providing skier bus services in the winter is $175,000, with $151,000 for operations and $24,000 for capital.

     Blaine County is providing $128,000, $111,000 for operations and $17,000 for capital.

     The city of Hailey is contributing a total of $68,000, $59,000 for operations and $9,000 for capital.

     Finally, the city of Bellevue, which has provided no funding to Mountain Rides for the past few years, is contributing $1,000 for 2014, $865 for operations and $135 for capital improvements.

     The budget for fiscal year 2014, which starts on Oct. 1, was approved unanimously by the board of directors. Approval followed a legally required public hearing. However, no one attended the meeting to comment.

     Officers of the board of directors are Chair Susan McBryant, representing the city of Hailey; Vice Chair Mark Gilbert, representing the city of Sun Valley; and Secretary Steve Wolper, an “at-large” representative selected by Friends of Mountain Rides, a nonprofit organization that supports the organization.

     Other board members are Peter Everett, of Ketchum; Michael David, of Ketchum; Nils Ribi, of Sun Valley; Joe Miczulski, of Bellevue; and David Patrie, of Blaine County.

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