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Transit system looks at budget

FAIRMONT — The Faribault-Martin County Transit board discussed their 2022 operations budget Wednesday. According to information from Director Jeremy Monahan, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) was soliciting for a one-year contract rather than a two-year contract. MnDOT has committed to funding 100 percent of the operations cost with a zero percent local share.

To afford that financial commitment, MnDOT would only allow a 2 percent increase over the 2021 budgeted amount from the 2020-2021 operations contract. MnDOT sent a revised expected 2022 budget in the amount of $1.35 million, which the board ultimately approved. Monahan noted that one issue currently faced by the transit board is a worker shortage.

“For the worker shortage that we’re going through one thing that we need to consider is enhanced wages, more so than just a cost of living increase,” he said. “For 2022, anything above what MnDOT is approving, they are going to be very open to us using reserve funds to cover anything over their contract amount. If we go over the 1.35 million, they’ll be open to using reserve funds to cover that.”

The reserve fund for the transit board is expected to have approximately $90,000 at the beginning of 2022 and is estimated to grow by $142,000 in 2022 due to the zero percent local share and all revenues being able to be added to the reserve fund. Utilizing that, the board expected to be able to provide a modest wage increase, utilizing about 24,000 to 25,000 of the reserve fund.

In other action, the board passed a resolution to purchase two new transit buses from North Central Bus and Equipment in the amounts of $92,348 and $92,183.

Monahan also presented a ridership report, noting that ridership has dropped in the last couple of months. Part of that reduction was expected due to warmer weather months, what another part is due to fewer people needing to be brought to employment. In particular, the closing of MRCI in Fairmont had a prominent role to play regarding the ridership decline.

Monahan noted that there is still a strong base of people needing rides for shopping and medical appointments. He also noted that ridership is down in transit systems across the state and that fare collection suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic also had a role in driving ridership numbers higher than normal.

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