Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

April 18, 2014

Low ridership drives fee up

TONY HUFFMAN Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — Not enough area residents are taking advantage of Effingham County Public Transportation, forcing the public transit system to raise its fees.

Effingham County Tax and Finance Committee heard Thursday from Phil Toops, who acts as a liaison between the transit system and the county, that they are looking at an operational budget of $607,984 for the upcoming year. According to Toops, that is approximately $50,000 less than the current budget. The service offers community residents public transportation, and works with local organizations to provide transport.

Funds for the program are made available through the state, with the county acting as an oversight for the organization.

“You have to have a government agency involved, because money is coming from the state,” said Tax and Finance Chairman Rob Arnold. “We wouldn't deny those funds unless there was some abuse, which we haven't seen.”

After its first year of service has failed to produce enough ridership, Toops informed the board that the program is proposing increasing the passenger fee from $2 to $3 each way for transportation. He did not provide ridership figures at Thursday's meeting.

“We are using the increased fare to generate more income,” he said.

“Everything that I am hearing about the program is positive,” said Arnold. “Obviously, because the fees are going up, they aren't having the usage they were projecting.”

Several entities contract service through the organization, including Rides Mass Transit, Central Illinois Public Service, ARC and Effingham County Committee on Aging.

In other news, the committee:

• Approved a motion to increase the annual salary for county officials by $1,200. Those officials include the Effingham County clerk, treasurer, supervisor of assessments, sheriff and circuit clerk. Those raises must also be approved by the Effingham County Board.

• Approved a levy amount of $94,000 for the University of Illinois Extension. Arnold said it is the average amount levied by the county for the extension program.

Tony Huffman can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, at tony.huffman@effinghamdailynews.com or on Twitter @Ednthuffman.