The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
The Times 

Passage of the $30 car tab initiative will be felt in Columbia County


October 17, 2019

DAYTON—If you think state Initiative 976, better known as the $30 Car Tab Initiative, will only affect Sound Transit, on the west side of the state, think again.

If I-976 is approved by voters, Columbia County Public Transportation stands to lose forty percent of the state’s portion of its largest source of funding, which is through the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Consolidated Grant program, said Steve Mertens, CCPT Finance Manager.

He said if I-976 is approved by voters, adjustments might need to be made to service levels.

“We don’t know what the legislature will do. We don’t know if the legislature will shift money from elsewhere,” he said. “If they don’t do anything, and money isn’t moved around, we are talking about forty percent of our budget,” he said.

During the 2019-21 biennium CCPT is on tap to collect $1,078,830 from the state, through the Consolidated Grant program. Another $1,000,000 is collected from the federal government, through the Consolidated Grant program, Mertens said.

CCPT gets additional money through local sales tax, which generates about $300,000 annually. Fares generate another $70,000 annually, he said.

The operating budget for this year, alone, is $1.4 million. Payroll, fuel, insurance, and rental on the building, is the largest share of the budget, but there are many other expenditures including for office supplies, bus parts, and advertising, Mertens said.

“It will be challenging to come up with a whole lot of cuts. We could only make cuts in the tens of thousands, at least,” he said.

CCPT General Manager David Ocampo said, “It’s one of those things, you have a pool of water, and there is a hole in the side of it. Water is coming out, but now you have somebody poking holes in another side. Now you’ve got to figure out where to put the patch.”

Ocampo said CCPT provides rides to people living in Starbuck, Dayton, Waitsburg, and Dixie. Students make up the largest share of ridership, but CCPT also provides transportation for people traveling to work, and for seniors, veterans, and disabled people, many of whom rely on CCPT for rides to their medical appointments.


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