Funding for public transportation services slashed

by Dennis Sharkey

Public transportation services that hundreds of Jefferson countians depend on is facing severe budget cuts that take effect in just two weeks.

Jefferson County Services Organization Director Lynn Luck said last week that she was informed that a huge grant that helps fund the program is being cut.

Luck said the cuts are coming from the United Way. For more than 19 years the JCSO has been a benefactor of United Way grants, and still is although at a much smaller amount.

The JCSO asked for $52,000 for 2012 but were told they would receive only $6,000.

“I need people to realize that we are in desperate need,” Luck said in a plea to the public. “There’s no way we can keep doing what we have been doing.”

Luck said the JCSO needs to raise about $30,000 in the next 30 days in order to avoid losing more funds. The Kansas Department of Transportation also funds the program with a grant but requires matching funds. Without the $30,000 Luck said that JCSO could lose that funding as well.

The transportation program has a fleet of eight vehicles that drive county residents to places they need to go. Luck said 73 percent of the trips are to medical appointments out of county in Lawrence or Topeka.

Many of the trips are for things such as dialysis treatments, eye exams, dental appointments or cancer treatments. The program drives about 164,000 miles annually. Last year there were close to 3,500 trips made.

Luck said the program is important because the people who use it are primarily the elderly or disabled and cannot drive themselves.

If the program cannot provide rides to residents many surveyed said they would have to depend on a family member to take them. Most of the residents say the family member would have to take off work in order to take them to their appointment.

According to figures provided by Luck on average a person would have to take off a half-day of work to accommodate the trip at a cost of $60 of lost wages.

Luck said there were two issues that United Way raised with JCSO’s application.

The panel questioned some anonymous donations that were deposited without individual receipts. During the trips envelopes are provided to residents if they want to make a donation for the ride. Those deposits amounted to more than $12,500.

Luck said JCSO’s auditor raised some issues with the United Way’s panel questioning the deposits.

The second issue United Way raised was the criticalness of the trips and if they were medically necessary.

She said on Monday that there is no appeal process for JCSO and that the decision of the United Way is final.

Luck said the cuts will not affect any rides already scheduled but the problem will have to be addressed soon.

For anyone who wishes to donate to the program contact Luck at 863-2637.

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Posted by on Dec 26 2011. Filed under County News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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