Kitsap Transit still mulling service cuts

The Kitsap Transit Board of Commissioners did not vote on service reductions last week, but instead discussed a set of policies that will define the agency’s response to the “continuing budget crises” caused by the declines in sales tax revenue over the past year and a half.

At a special meeting July 30, the board passed resolution 09-47, which originally was scheduled for consideration at the July 21 meeting and would have “implement(ed) a two-stage set of service reductions affecting both Routed and ACCESS services.”

However, that meeting was cancelled due to a lack of enough board members to form a quorum, and at the re-scheduled meeting a week later, the resolution had changed. The revised resolution did not implement service cuts in September and December, but only authorized Kitsap Transit staff to “begin discussion of a set of December service reductions.”

Before approving the resolution last week, the board addressed about a dozen policy questions that would help direct that discussion, which included whether Saturday bus and ferry services should be eliminated to preserve weekday service.

Members of the public addressed the board, most of which said they did not want Saturday service cut.

A resident of Seabeck said that cutting Saturday bus service would “devastate me. I work on Saturdays (at Olympic College), and I would lose hours. Also, since you cut Sunday (service), Saturday is the only other day I can go to church.”

At the meeting July 30, however, board members pointed out that the policy recommendation was to either “reduce or eliminate” Saturday service, and that completely reducing Saturday service was no longer being considered as an option.

“Should we re-phrase the question and cross-out ‘eliminate?’” said Bainbridge Island Mayor Christopher Snow. Kitsap Transit Executive Director Richard Hayes agreed.

The discussion on service reductions will continue at the board’s next meeting, scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Aug. 18 at the Norm Dicks Government Center.

Clerk of the Board Cathie Knox Browning said that originally there was no meeting scheduled for August, but it is now scheduled to allow for discussion of the policies and other “timely” matters.

According to Hayes, the transit agency receives 80 to 85 percent of its revenue from sales taxes, which are projected to be 10 percent less than revenues collected in 2007. With volatile fuel costs taken into account, the agency predicts it will have a deficit of $1.5 million to $2 million at the end of 2009.

Since August of 2008, the agency has increased fares by at least 20 percent twice, raising the full fare from $1.25 to $2, and the reduced fare from 60 cents to $1.

The agency also reduced its service hours by 10 percent — eliminating Sunday trips by both buses and ferries — and laid-off 15 employees. Through attrition and a hiring freeze, the overall staffing level of the agency has been reduced by 11 percent.

However, Hayes determined that “additional options to further reduce expenditures (must be considered).

“We are borrowing from 2010’s money to get through 2009,” Hayes said, explaining that $1 million was shifted from 2010 to 2009, but that the agency was still facing a “$2 million crisis as we speak.”

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