Persistent budget deficits and potential duplication of services could mean cutbacks or termination of an Oro Valley transit program.
The town faces a potential
$3 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year, which could necessitate cuts to the town-operated Coyote Run transit service for the elderly and disabled. At the same time, the Regional Transportation Authority has extended similar services in the area.
“We don’t want duplication of services,” said Oro Valley Mayor Satish Hiremath.
At a Feb. 23 council meeting, town transit officials presented a collection of options for the council to decide during the coming budget approval that would determine the future of Coyote Run.
Prominent among the choices was an option to eliminate Coyote Run altogether.
The town could decide to cut the service, which would eliminate up to $106,000 in fleet and software maintenance costs. The town funds Coyote Run operations with a $393,000 annual general fund subsidy.
Another option would be to further scale back Coyote Run to ensure that no service gaps would occur if the program were eliminated.
The council plans to revisit the issue in coming budget sessions. But Hiremath said the town would exercise caution in making a decision that could impact residents.
“We don’t want to make a rush decision,” the mayor said.
Hiremath sits on the RTA board along with other regional and tribal government leaders. He said the RTA would likely continue to expand its role in transit service.
“They actually want to take over the transportation systems for the entire region,” Hiremath said about the RTA.
Late last year, Pima County turned over its needs-based transit service called Handi-Car to the RTA. Since then, the RTA has expanded the service boundaries of Handi-Car to include all of Oro Valley.
In February, the RTA initiated a new dial-a-ride transit service in Oro Valley. The service covers all of Oro Valley and some areas outside the town.
The RTA has committed to the service through the fiscal 2012 budget year. The authority has allocated $225,000 for the service, RTA officials said.
Unlike Coyote Run and Handi-Car, anyone can use the service. Likewise, the dial-a-ride service isn’t limited to Oro Valley residents, as is Coyote Run.
The RTA expansions come at time when the town has been forced to scale back its transit services on an almost annual basis.
The town has reduced Coyote Run services — which assisted the elderly and disabled over the past few years — eliminating jobs, constricting the service area and relying on volunteers to do what fulltime workers once did.
Many of the cutbacks followed the Arizona Legislature’s transfer of balances to the general fund from special from funds used to assist local transit services. Money from lottery sales supplied the funds.
Oro Valley lost more than $200,000 in support as a result of the transfers.
The town has operated Coyote Run since 1996. The needs-based transit service shuttles residents to doctors’ appointments and other engagements at as minimal cost.
Riders must live in the town, be at least 62 years old, or qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act.