Letters to the Editor

LETTER TO THE EDITOR | Island Transit wasn’t prepared for down economy

To the editor:

I was in attendance at the July 17 Island County Transit board meeting to see first had what the purposed .3 percent increase in sales tax was about.

It was quite an eye-opener. I thought it strange that there were not newspaper reporters from any of the Island County papers in attendance. I would like to first off say that I am a proponent of Island Transit. I think that the service it provides is a valuable one, especially the paratransit transportation. I just feel that the regular services need to be brought in line with the current economy situation.

After saying that I would like to point out a few things to the public that I feel should be said. This levy, in my opinion, is a runaway train. In the paperwork we were provided are some very eye-opening numbers.

Fact: Expenditure figures (actual/projected) increase from $7.7 million in 2007 to $9.6 million in 2010.

Fact: Revenue to expenditure figures (actual/projected) increased from a surplus of $594,000 in 2007 to a projected $1.55 million deficit in 2010.

These are Island Transit figures, not ones that I made up.

With the levy passing Island Transit is projecting a $662,000 surplus for 2010.

Since their increase in expenditures has increase an average of $789,000 a year since 2007, how long do you think they will be running surplus even with the .3 percent increase?

I believe a “fear factor” has been brought into this discussion with the paratransit buses. If you look at Island Transit figures you will see they show a $481,000 expenditure to a 2010 projected $623,000. Since this is the second lowest expenditure listed by Island Transit, next to the $181,000 for the van pool, there is no justifiable reason to reduce the paratransit services. That, in my opinion, takes the paratransit factor of the board.

What will surprise most people is that the administrative cost for Island Transit has increased from $968,000 in 2007 to a projected $1.3 million in 2010. Why? Has staff increased that much and if so, why? Who approves pay raises for Island Transit administrative employees? Why are they not public record?

Fact: Increase in fuel expenditure (predicted) from 2009 to 2010 is $496,000. If there are no current plans for more bus routes, why the dramatic jump? Do they assume gas prices are going to go off the chart?

The biggest eye-opener for me was the paragraph on sales tax. According to Island Transit figures the sales tax was down 8 percent in 2008 and 2009. Since “historically we received a 10 percent increase each year this adds up to a 36 percent less anticipated sales tax” (again their words, not mine). This reminds me of people who bought homes then went out and purchased big-ticket items assuming their home value was going to continue to skyrocket.

Island Transit did not prepare for a downsize economy but just kept expanding with the assumption that everything was just going to continue going up.

I would ask the citizens of Island County to look at this levy with an open eye and not an emotional one. Island Transit will not perish if the levy fails but they will have to do what we have to do and that is to live within a budget.

James Pace

Oak Harbor

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