With a recent reduction in state funding, Eastern Sierra Transit faced serious financial trouble. While trouble remains, it now appears that the buses will remain on the road and the drivers will keep their jobs.
Funded more by taxes and grant money then by money brought in with fares, ESTA has both short term cash flow problems and long term budget issues. At the board meeting on Friday, the board members from the Mammoth Town Council, the Mono Supervisors, The Inyo Supervisors, and the City of Bishop, were able to pass a balanced budget without cuts to service and layoffs.
After passing a balanced budget earlier this summer, the ESTA board faced a budget re-write after the state cut an important grant program by 59%. The new budget that avoids layoff and cuts has now been passed, but depends on a few ifs.
To get through the current year, ESTA needs $150,000 from the Local Transportation Commissions which have separate money for transportation issues and road projects. ESTA Director John Helm explained that the Mono County LTC had already approved $50,000 of additional money for the transit authority. The Inyo LTC will consider $100,000 in additional funding at their meeting next week.
Those moves, plus some personnel shifts, and other minor changes get ESTA through this year. With the state money in limbo and possibly not coming next year, the ESTA board has asked the two counties, plus the city councils in Bishop and Mammoth, for $325,000 in loans to float ESTA through next year.
At the last meeting the two Inyo Supervisors on the ESTA board were not interested in participating in the loan process, so at this meeting the plan was solidified to ask the Mammoth Town Council for a $125,000 loan and ask for $100,000 from the Bishop City Council and the Mono Supervisors.
If the various governing boards and the LTCs come through with the money as planned, bus service and Dial-A-Ride is expected to continue without cuts.