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October 3, 2013

KC Council agrees to provide some future funding relief for the ATA

The council’s resolution says the city will still provide $2 million annually for the streetcar from the transportation tax but will stop funding streets from that tax. That assures the Area Transportation Authority it will receive about $2.5 million more annually, beginning in the next fiscal year.

Kansas City’s bus system would get some future funding relief, although not everything it wanted, under a resolution approved Thursday by the Kansas City Council.

Area Transportation Authority officials had warned earlier this year that their long-term finances were in trouble because the city was taking millions of dollars that the bus system had expected and instead allocating that money to the downtown streetcar project and to streets.

ATA general manager Mark Huffer said those funding diversions meant the council wasn’t fulfilling a 2010 pledge to provide 95 percent of a transportation sales tax for the buses. He said he was having to dip into reserves by about $3 million to $4 million per year to cover operating expenses.

The council’s resolution says the city will still provide $2 million annually for the streetcar from the transportation tax but will stop funding streets from that tax. That assures the ATA it will receive about $2.5 million more annually, beginning in the next fiscal year.

Huffer said the council’s resolution gives the bus system a bit more funding certainty.

“It enables us to make financial projections into the future,” he said. “It’s a little bit easier.”

Huffer said the city and the ATA will continue to look at other long-term funding options, including regional, state and federal transit funding.

But the bus system’s costs are escalating faster than income. Council members said, and Huffer agreed, that management will have to get concessions from the bus system’s labor union to achieve a sustainable budget. Huffer said those negotiations are starting now because the labor contract expires at the end of this year.

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