From the Commission meeting: land purchase, new legislative priorities, budget forecast

Good afternoon, readers.

Some news for you from the November 30 DART Commission meeting:

Ready to make offer on Transit Hub parcel

The DART Commission voted unanimously to offer $650,000 for a 0.58-acre parcel of the site of the future Transit Hub. The parcel is currently owned by Wells Fargo and used as a parking lot.

The price tag was arrived at through an appraisal this fall of the assessed value — which is what federal law dictates the offer be. The price is within budget.

The largest parcel for the Transit Hub is owned by Polk County and will be made available to DART through a long-term, no-cost lease.

New legislative priorities

The DART Commission voted unanimously to approve new legislative priorities. For years, the top priority has been funding the Transit Hub, which as you all know was achieved in full this year. Among the new priorities:

  • Continued state funding for the D-Line downtown shuttle.
  • Support state legislation to stiffen penalties for those who assault bus operators, as has happened to DART drivers on several occasions in recent years.
  • Seek federal funds for an advanced “smart card” reader and fare payment system for DART’s buses.
  • Support the Iowa Department of Transportation’s request for $15 million in federal funding for bus replacement throughout the state.

Good news/bad news on next year’s budget

The good news: DART’s finances are healthy enough in the short term to put together a budget for next year that maintains current service levels, General Manager Brad Miller said. At this time last year, DART was looking at cutting service as a means to balance its budget.

The bad news: In the longer term, DART’s expenses appear to be out-pacing its revenues. That would mean a couple of tight years, followed by budget short falls — if the projections prove true, that is.

Obviously, the forecast could look different another year from now. Plus, by then, DART will have its strategic plan for growing service, which could guide future budget decisions.

The Commission took no action on next year’s budget at the November meeting. Staff will present a more detailed budget proposal at the December meeting.

Click here for the full agenda.