A combination of grants aimed at disabled riders and a $500,000 private donation are expected to help the embattled parish bus system get through the year without closing.
The Capital Area Transit System is facing a $1.5 million budget deficit, and without funds, the bus system will be shuttered by October.
CATS Chief Executive Officer Brian Marshall said earlier this month his staff tentatively identified funds from myriad sources to plug the immediate budget hole, but would not reveal the sources.
Official minutes from the board’s three finance and executive committee meetings from late May to mid-June paint a clearer picture of the expected sources.
A private entity, which was not identified, is expected to give $500,000 to CATS.
The donation would be considered a loan in the event that a tax is ultimately passed to support the transit system.
If the tax failed, the donation would be considered a gift, according to staff comments in the minutes.
CATS will know more about the donation by the end of July, the minutes said.
It also is applying for a $500,000 federal grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s disaster relief fund.
CATS is eligible for this grant because of its increased costs from an influx of disabled riders since hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said Gary Owens, chief financial officer, after Tuesday’s board meeting.
Disabled riders are more costly, because the transit system is obligated to provide them with door-to-door service, which is more expensive than a fixed route.
Similarly, Owens said Medicaid reimbursements for the same reason will allow CATS to reap an additional $180,000 annually.
CATS also is attempting to tap about $400,000 in Federal Transit Authority grants aimed at a low-income and disabled workforce reliant on public transit.
To meet eligibility, CATS would have to alter a route to reach the Louisiana School for the Deaf and the Lighthouse for the Blind, the minutes said.
The committee meeting minutes were released as a public record at Tuesday’s meeting of the CATS board of commissioners.
Both board members and Marshall offered little public comment Tuesday regarding the funding sources.
CATS officials attempted to balance their budget by cutting it in January, but Metro Council members said riders would bear the brunt of those cuts, including the elimination of weekend service and higher fares.
The Metro Council rejected the cuts, leaving CATS with a deficit that could mean closure by early October.
In February, Mayor-President Kip Holden said he was close to securing $1 million a year for three years to help CATS. He has not commented on the funds since his initial statements.
Marshall said he knows the mayor is “working very hard” to find the money.
On July 1, CATS will submit a proposed 2012 budget to the city-parish that will request an allocation from the city-parish general fund.
CATS, for years, has received about $3 million from local funds.
Minutes of finance and executive meetings suggest the bus system will be asking for additional local funds to get through next year because a possible tax election isn’t likely until late 2012.
“Next year’s deficit is going to be larger than that of 2011,” the minutes said.
CATS is expected to ask for money to close the deficit, plus more funds to be leveraged as a local match for capital grant opportunities, the minutes said.