As part of a proposed agreement to continue paratransit services to Lincoln in 2018, the Bis-Man Transit Board will ask Lincoln city officials to pay for a portion of services up front.
The Lincoln City Council voted on Dec. 15 to pay $20,000 owed to Transit for services rendered in 2017 in order to keep the bus service from being discontinued at the end of the year. As part of that vote, the council said it wanted a signed agreement with Transit that would lock them in for a $20,000 rate again in 2018.
In drawing up an agreement, the Transit board said Thursday it will ask for something in return for holding the rate rather than waiting until the end of next year.
“We’re working on good faith on both sides,” said board secretary/treasurer DeNae Kautzmann. “In working with us, they need to show a little bit of good faith as well.”
The agreement, which will be sent to the city council to either be accepted or negotiated, will ask the council to approve payment of the 2018 bill in two installments. It also will ask that a permanent funding solution be in place for 2019 by October 2018.
The Transit board said it is clear that it does not want to cut service to Lincoln but members also want to prevent being put in a last-minute funding crisis again next year, especially because they expect to be operating at a deficit themselves, Kautzmann said.
“Those issues should not become our issues,” said Transit board member Karel Sovak.
The city had expected to have the money for paratransit services but the residents voted down earlier this year a tax increase that would have paid for it. The city could bring back a ballot measure again in the coming year.
“What are the consequences if they don’t?” Transit board vice president Kim Stevenson asked. “How do we prevent ourselves from having this same discussion next year?”
Lincoln covered the $20,000 owed to Transit for 2017 using funds from an uncashed water check to the city of Bismarck that had been a duplicate and that had remained in Lincoln’s account.
Lincoln City Auditor Shawn Surface said the council could pay the $8,317 remaining from that unreconciled water check. There is also a check for $4,390 to the Lincoln Park Board that needs to be voided. This, along with an number of other small checks, may be available as well, though those still need to be confirmed.
In total, Surface said there might be $15,078 available that could be spent on an upfront payment should the council choose.
“I don’t think it’s a good business plan to allow them to pay after the fact,” Kautzmann had said in making the suggestion for an up front payment.
But Lincoln city councilman Tom Volk, the dissenting vote against spending the first $20,000 to keep service going, said he thinks its a bad idea to pay for services prior to receiving them and will again vote against any requested payments from Transit.
Volk also said he thinks a vote to fund future services with a tax increase will again be difficult. He said, in his conversations with residents, people believe there are better transport services for Lincoln’s elderly and disabled residents at a cheaper cost.